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Clayton Kershaw Rumors
MLB.com's Jim Callis has an interesting breakdown of the dollars committed to the game's top prospects. Over $228MM has already been committed by teams to the prospects listed among MLB.com's top 100. Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Keith Law has released his own prospect rankings (Insider links), naming the Astros' system as the game's best and tabbing Byron Buxton of the Twins as the best overall prospect. In his own top 101 prospects list, Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus agrees with Buxton as the top choice, which certainly appears to be the consensus. And Baseball America has completed its listing of the ten best prospects by team.
Here are some more links from around the game:
- The Twins are keeping tabs on free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, but are a long shot to land him. Minnesota is probably only interested if Cruz drops his price fairly significantly, Wolfson adds, guessing that the club would probably only be involved at two years with an average annual value at or below the $10MM mark.
- Likewise, the Twins are waiting for the price to fall on South Korean hurler Suk-min Yoon, Wolfson reports (Twitter links). When Wolfson floated the number of two years and $10MM total to his source, he was told that cost was likely too steep for Minnesota.
- Free agent reliever Ryan Madson plans to hold a full public workout on February 7th, reports Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (Twitter links). The 33-year-old threw yesterday for an unknown club that is reportedly a leading candidate to land him, Crasnick adds.
- Starter Scott Baker chose the Mariners over offers from the Indians, Rangers, and Royals, reports Wolfson (via Twitter). The Twins never had interest in a reunion, Wolfson adds.
- Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers were discussing a deal in the range of $200MM to $205MM over the summer, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. By waiting until he wrapped up a Cy Young campaign, Kershaw was able to secure a deal with a $215MM guarantee.
The Dodgers have officially announced the extension of ace Clayton Kershaw, who receives a groundbreaking seven-year, $215MM contract one year before he would have qualified for free agency. Notably, the deal includes an out clause that the southpaw can exercise after five seasons, at which time he will still be just 30 years old.
Kershaw's representatives at Excel Sports Management have secured their client the highest-ever annual salary for a baseball player. His $30.7MM AAV bests those achieved in the one-year, $28MM deal for Roger Clemens back in 2007 and Alex Rodriguez's ten-year, $275MM deal.
Kershaw's extension also gives him more new money than any pitcher contract in baseball history. Indeed, the deal exceeds the next biggest commitment — the seven-year, $161MM C.C. Sabathia deal — by a whopping $54MM. Likewise, it dwarfs other, more recent guarantees, including Zack Greinke's $147MM free agent pact and the extensions of Cole Hamels ($144M in new money), Justin Verlander ($140MM), and Felix Hernandez ($135.5MM).
Though it does not have a no-trade clause, Kershaw's contract contains language that would significantly impact his rights in a trade scenario. First and foremost, Kershaw would obtain the right to void the deal if traded. If he is sent to another club mid-season, he could void the rest of the deal before the start of the following season. If, instead, Kershaw is dealt during the offseason, he gets the right to void the remainder of the contract after the end of the ensuing campaign. He would also pick up a one-time, $3MM bonus if he is traded during the offseason.
Obviously, these clauses present a significant barrier to any trade, at least until the point at which Kershaw's opt-out clause would otherwise be available to him. In particular, they convey immense leverage to Kershaw to demand a massive, new extension from any team that wishes to acquire him.
Kershaw's salary will be somewhat backloaded. The big lefty will earn $22MM in 2014, $18MM of which is a signing bonus and only $4MM of which is in salary. His salary then tracks as follows: $30MM (2015), $32MM (2016), $33MM (2017), $33MM (2018), $32MM (2019), and $33MM (2020). The deal also contains incentives: Kershaw stands to earn $1MM for a Cy Young campaign and $500K for landing second or third in the voting.
This means that the opt-out decision facing Kershaw after the 2018 season will effectively be a two-year, $65MM proposition. If he leaves that money on the table, the deal would end up paying him $150MM over five years, good for a straight $30MM AAV.
Kershaw's nearly unprecedented level of early-career performance had lined him up for a projected $18.15MM arbitration payday this year, in the analysis of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes notes on Twitter, that would imply an approximately $32.8MM AAV ($197MM over six years) for Kershaw's free agent years.
Indeed, Kershaw's historic contract was earned by a legitimately historic run in his career's early going. The soon-to-be 26-year-old became only the third pitcher in MLB history — following Greg Maddux and Lefty Grove — to lead the big leagues in ERA for three straight seasons, which he accomplished after posting the low mark again last year. He has registered a close second to Verlander in terms of fWAR (18.5 against 19.1) among starters over that same time period.
Last year was Kershaw's best season yet, as he posted a 1.83 ERA in 236 innings, leading the league in strikeouts (232) and WHIP (0.915) to go along with his ERA title. The net of his MLB career to date is a 2.60 ERA in 1,180 innings, buttressed by 9.2 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9. He has made at least 30 starts in every year since 2009 and has thrown over 200 innings for each of the last four seasons. Needless to say, Kershaw has been both outstanding and durable.
For the Dodgers, Kershaw adds a massive, but seemingly manageable, new obligation to the books. As I explained back in November, Los Angeles was running away from the rest of the league in terms of post-2014 salary obligations. Though major signings by clubs like the Yankees and Rangers have evened things out somewhat in the interim, L.A. will continue to set the pace on future spending. But that spending level is backed up by an unmatched $340MM local TV revenue stream.
As I further explored, the Dodgers stand to gain the most out of any team in baseball from an inflationary salary environment, as their massive obligations stand to see the largest decrease in real value as salaries rise. The money owed Kershaw, too, could reduce substantially in relative terms if salary trends continue upward. Moreover, as also illustrated in that piece, Los Angeles has a huge ramp-down in its future commitments beginning after the 2018 season, which creates some additional breathing room. But with the opt out landing at that same point, that salary space could ultimately end up going towards yet another extension.
As Dierkes notes on Twitter, Kershaw's contract is the ninth MLB deal to include an opt-out clause. Of the other eight deals, only those agreed to by Vernon Wells and Elvis Andrus came by way of extension rather than free agency.
Looking at the broader market impact, the Kershaw extension will undoubtedly be pointed to in negotiations regarding other top starters. Major arms that are set for free agency next year include Max Scherzer, James Shields, and Jon Lester, with David Price headlining the 2016 crop. Though Kershaw may be in a league of his own given his age and track record, his new deal certainly stretches the scale of reasoanbly attainable salaries upwards.
ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne first reported the signing and its terms (via Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported the annual payment structure on Twitter. Joel Sherman of the New York Post first reported the deal's trade provisions (all links to Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Dodgers owner Mark Walter says one reason his team decided to give Clayton Kershaw a new $215MM contract is a cautionary tale about the Cubs and Greg Maddux, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. In 1992, a 26-year-old Maddux won his first Cy Young award as a Cub, but the Cubs let him leave as a free agent after the season. He won three more straight Cy Young awards, but he won them all with the Braves. The Braves then went to the playoffs four times before the Cubs got back to the postseason again. Here are more reactions to the Kershaw extension.
- $215MM is "crazy" money, but that doesn't mean the Kershaw deal is a bad idea, writes FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal notes that, last summer, the Dodgers offered Kershaw a seven-year deal in the vicinity of $200MM, so their willingness to go slightly higher helped get the deal done. Rosenthal also notes that Kershaw's opt-out clause, which allows him to leave after five years, is a key part of the deal, since opt-out clauses are very player-friendly.
- Kershaw is close to being "the Mike Trout of pitchers," Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. Health permitting, he could well end up "the best pitcher of his generation." The contracts for Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez helped set a baseline for Kershaw — Kershaw is better than either one, and was a year closer to free agency. Cameron also writes that, unless Kershaw gets hurt, he will probably opt out of his contract in five years. It appears he sacrificed a bit of upfront money in the contract in order to have the right to opt out of it.
- If you're going to give a pitcher $215MM, Kershaw is exactly the kind of pitcher who should get it, Steven Goldman of SB Nation writes. He's still just 25 and has a solid health record, and the Dodgers have gone relatively easy on his arm.
2:07pm: Dodgers president Stan Kasten has confirmed that the club is looking to complete a deal with Kershaw in the near term, according to a tweet from Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. "I am hopeful that, by the [arbitration exchange] deadline Friday morning, we can work something out," Kasten said in reference to Kershaw.
Kasten also left the impression that a Kershaw extension would not preclude the club from pursuing Masahiro Tanaka, Shaikin further tweets. Though he declined to discuss the Japanese hurler, Kasten said that he does not "think any one contract impacts any other."
11:15am: ESPN's Buster Olney says Kershaw and the Dodgers are "at the two- or the one-yard line" in terms of completing a record-setting extension (video link).
8:28am: The Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw are discussing an extension, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who reports that the team would like to have an agreement in place by Friday. Los Angeles' preference is to have a deal in place by the time the two sides are set to exchange arbitration figures.
Rosenthal reports that the two sides were close on a seven-year, $210MM extension last season before the Dodgers backed off and adds that early in the negotiation process, a 10-year, $250MM contract and a 12-year, $300MM pact were discussed. Rosenthal also reports that the near-agreement last season contained an opt-out after the fifth year that would've allowed Kershaw to hit the open market again at age 30. The Dodgers gave Zack Greinke an opt-out after three years of his deal, and Kershaw has the same agency — Excel Sports Management.
Kershaw is fresh off his third straight National League ERA title and his second Cy Young in three years, having pitched to a 1.83 ERA in 2013. Over the past five seasons, Kershaw has pitched to an incredible 2.43 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9, and his command has improved in each of those seasons. He averaged nearly five walks per nine innings as a 21-year-old in 2009 but averaged just two per nine innings last season. Kershaw's accomplishments make it seem as though he's older than he actually is, but incredibly, he's still entering just his age-26 season.
As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes noted back in April, CC Sabathia's $161MM guarantee is the largest "new money" extension ever signed by a pitcher, though Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez have had larger guarantees that included the money from previously existing deals. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected an $18.2MM salary for Kershaw next season if the two sides simply work out a one-year deal via arbitration, but a long-term deal would obviously require a significantly larger annual value.
Bargains abound on the free agent market, opines Doug Miller of MLB.com. Miller lists the following sleeper candidates for solid production in 2014: catcher Michael McKenry, first bagger Casey Kotchman, outfielders Chris Coghlan, Derrick Robinson, Grady Sizemore, and Tyler Colvin, and pitchers James McDonald, Suk-min Yoon, and David Aardsma. Here are a few more links to round out the day:
- Ace Clayton Kershaw has had ongoing discussions with the Dodgers about an extension that could reach ten seasons with over a $30MM annual salary, says Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Club GM Ned Colletti said just recently that talks have been active, and of course the club reportedly extended Kershaw a $300MM offer during the 2013 season. Such a deal would make Kershaw the best paid player in baseball history, both in terms of total guarantee and annual salary.
- Meanwhile, the Dodgers are still in on the biggest open market pitcher of the offseason, Masahiro Tanaka. As Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com explains, the Yankees have an urgent need for Tanaka, while the Dodgers more aptly want the hurler. If Los Angeles nevertheless outbids the Yanks for the Japanese star, says Saxon, it would represent a fundamental power shift in the game.
- You can count the Athletics out of the mix for Tanaka, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). Though GM Billy Beane surprised many when he nabbed Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, Slusser says that Oakland is not pursuing Tanaka.
- Reports earlier this evening that Daisuke Matsuzaka had re-signed with the Mets proved untrue, as multiple reports made clear. But Matsuzaka still realistically could land in New York on a minor league deal, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. He would compete with in-house options for the club's fifth and final rotation slot.
- The Twins have hit before on the international market, and may now have their eyes on a couple of Cuban pitchers. According to a report on Twitter from 1500 ESPN Darren Wolfson, Minnesota sent three scouts to Mexico to see hurlers Misael Siverio and Odrisamer Despaigne throw in a showcase.
Earlier today, Dodgers general manager spoke with the Los Angeles media. In addition to confirming manager Don Mattingly's three-year extension, Colletti offered some insight into a number of Dodgers issues…
- Colletti confirmed to reporters that the Dodgers have spoken with Masahiro Tanaka's agent, Casey Close recently, tweets Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times. For the time being, Tanaka is in the "feeling out process," Colletti added (Hernandez tweeting).
- Offseason pickup Alexander Guerrero is the favorite to start at second base while Dee Gordon and Miguel Rojas should also be in the mix, according to Colletti (via Hernandez). It's not a huge surprise to hear that Guerrero is the frontrunner for the job after inking a four-year, $28MM deal that can reach $32MM with incentives. However, the Dodgers still would like to add another utility infielder, Colletti added (via MLB.com's Ken Gurnick on Twitter).
- Colletti indicated that he's had "a lot of conversations" with Clayton Kershaw on a new contract (Hernandez reporting). He's also checked in with Hanley Ramirez's reps on a new deal (also via Hernandez).
- Colletti also provided a number of health updates on his injured players. Josh Beckett is expected to be ready by the time Spring Training begins (Hernandez reporting), while Chad Billingsley and Scott Elbert are targeting respective June and July returns to the Majors (via Gurnick). Gurnick also relays that Matt Kemp has begun hitting and is expected to play during Spring Training.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Clayton Kershaw told Jim Bowden and Casey Stern on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (on Twitter) his contract negotiations with the Dodgers aren't on hold, but they've haven't resumed since the season ended. Kershaw reportedly turned down a $300MM extension offer from the Dodgers earlier this year due to concerns about the length and size of the deal. While it has been assumed that Kershaw will extend his deal with the Dodgers, the baseball world will surely be paying attention to what will likely be the largest contract ever issued to a pitcher.
Here's the latest from both Los Angeles teams…
- "I think, for us, it wouldn't surprise me if we went [through] the winter without a huge move; not that it couldn't happen," Dodgers president Stan Kasten tells MLB.com's Ken Gurnick. "We are looking more at deepening the organization, to fine-tune it and get into the season and see what we need. Having said that, I'm not ruling anything out. But those people who attach us to every free agent out there are making it up." With Kasten prioritizing the Dodgers' farm system, Gurnick finds it unlikely that the club would move what few top prospects it has in a trade for David Price.
- Also from Gurnick, the Dodgers "are kicking the tires" on such free agent pitchers as Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, Hiroki Kuroda, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bartolo Colon and Bronson Arroyo. Given the big salaries some of these pitchers are demanding, you wonder if L.A. would really make a move to sign any given Kasten's earlier comments, though Kuroda, Colon and Arroyo could be had on less expensive, shorter-term deals.
- The Angels aren't one of the teams who have made an offer to Ricky Nolasco, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reports (via Twitter). Nolasco is reportedly juggling several three- or four-year contracts offers.
- The rumored discord between Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia could have led to one or both men being fired following the Angels' disappointing season, but Dipoto tells FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi and he and the long-time Halos manager have improved their communication and are on the same page.
- From that same piece, Dipoto reiterated that pitching will be the central focus of the Angels' offseason: "Frankly, we’ve been focused on [pitching] for a couple years and it’s eluded us. We plan on putting our resources toward improving those areas. On the field, that’s where our biggest changes are going to come.”
- The Angels' defense took a sharp decline from 2012 to 2013, and ESPN's David Schoenfeld thinks that the club should hold onto Peter Bourjos as a way of improving their fielding. Schoenfeld also suggests signing Jhonny Peralta, trading Mark Trumbo and acquiring Felix Doubront from the Red Sox.
MLBTR's Zach Links contributed to this post
Max Scherzer of the Tigers and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers have won Cy Young awards in their respective leagues. Scherzer finished ahead of Yu Darvish of the Rangers, who came in second, and Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners, who finished third. Scherzer posted a 2.90 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9, and he led the American League with a 21 wins.
Kershaw led the NL with a 1.83 ERA, and he posted 8.8 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. His 232 strikeouts also led the National League. He also won the Cy Young in 2011 and came in second in 2012. He took 29 of 30 possible first-place votes. Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals came in a distant second, with Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez third.
- The Padres will likely discuss an extension with Chase Headley during the GM meetings, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link). As Heyman notes, there is "no evidence [the] sides have ever been close to" an agreement. Headley is set for free agency following the 2014 season and while his name has surfaced in trade talks, the current belief is that the Padres will keep him and hope he can return to form following a disappointing 2013 season.
- An informal poll of six scouts reveals clear preferences for Adam Eaton over A.J. Pollock and Chris Owings over Didi Gregorius, The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro writes. The Diamondbacks could deal one of their young center fielders or shortstops for help in other areas this offseason, though one scout notes that Arizona would be left with solid players no matter who they dealt.
- It's a little unusual that Clayton Kershaw hasn't signed a huge extension with the Dodgers yet, though ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon notes that if Kershaw isn't comfortable signing for a decade or longer, that could be in the Dodgers' best long-term interest.
- It has been rumored that the Dodgers could trade from their surplus of outfielders this offseason but GM Ned Colletti told reporters (including MLB.com's Ken Gurnick) that they have a lot of question marks, health-wise. Colletti pointed to last season's pitching injuries as an example of how you can never have enough roster depth: "We went to Spring Training with eight starting pitchers and everybody said we needed to trade some of them. Pretty soon we didn't have enough. We'll see what happens. We have to have big league coverage."
- Also from Gurnick, the Dodgers have an interest in bringing back Juan Uribe on a short-term contract. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicts Uribe will find a two-year, $12MM deal in free agency but that even could be a bit long given that Hanley Ramirez might be moved to third if Alexander Guerrero works out best as a shortstop rather than as a second baseman.
- Ryan Vogelsong has received interest from multiple teams and there's no guarantee he'll re-sign with the Giants, MLB.com's Chris Haft writes. Haft also explores some other free agent options as part of the mailbag piece.
Over the next few months, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.
Until this past season, Greg Maddux and Lefty Grove were the only pitchers in major league history to lead the major leagues in ERA for three straight seasons. Clayton Kershaw completed that hat trick this year, and his timing is excellent to go to arbitration prior to his contract year. Kershaw signed a two-year deal in his first year of eligibility, which paid him $11.25MM for this past year. The model predicts that Kershaw would get a $19MM salary for 2014 given his 16-9 performance and 1.83 ERA in 236 innings, but this year we have introduced The Kimbrel Rule, which states that a pitcher cannot beat the previous record for his arbitration class by more than $1MM, so we have Kershaw down for $6.9MM raise to $18.15MM, edging out the $5.9MM raise that Carlos Zambrano got as an arbitration eligible pitcher with five-plus years of service time in 2007.
In my dataset that I use to develop the arbitration salary projections for MLB Trade Rumors, I have all players who reached arbitration eligibility during the previous seven years. In this dataset, there are three starting pitchers who have had the same number of wins as Kershaw, 16, but none of them had anywhere near as strong an ERA. Zambrano had a 16-7 record, but his ERA was 3.41 in his platform season. Phil Hughes got a $3.95MM raise after going 16-13 through arbitration last year, but his ERA (4.23) was more than twice as large as Kershaw’s. Jorge De La Rosa’s 4.38 ERA was even higher than that when he went 16-9 in 2009 and got a $3.6MM raise the following season.
Despite ERA’s importance in measuring pitcher performance, it is not actually as important in arbitration negotiations as wins or innings pitched. So, it is a strike against Kershaw that he did not get the run support to win more than 16 games. However, Kershaw was so good at getting hitters out that he was able to get 708 of them in 2013—which amounts to 236 innings pitched. There is nobody in my database with anywhere near that number of innings pitched, giving Kershaw a large leg up on the population and a very good chance to break Zambrano’s record for 5+ years of service time as a starting pitcher. The next most innings of anyone in my dataset was Roy Oswalt, who had 220 2/3 innings pitched back in 2006, but received a multi-year deal with just a $2MM raise built in for 2007 afterwards. Cole Hamels, Jason Vargas, and Tim Lincecum each had at least 216 innings, though. They got raises of $5.5MM, $4.25MM, and $3.65MM, respectively, though Lincecum’s raise was part of a two-year deal. Kershaw has as many wins as anyone in the database, but his innings clearly give him an advantage.
As I mentioned earlier, though, it is Kershaw’s ERA that is so mind-boggling. There were only three pitchers in my database who even had ERAs within a run of Kershaw’s 1.83 mark for 2013. Hamels had a 2.79 ERA, but just a 14-9 record and 216 innings back in 2011. Tim Lincecum had a 2.74 ERA, but a 13-14 record in 217 innings. And Ryan Vogelsong, who got a $2.59MM raise in 2012, was coming off a 13-7 performance with a 2.70 ERA, though he only had 179 2/3 innings pitched. Overall, Kershaw now has a second important stat (in addition to innings pitched) where he laps the comparables against which he will be judged.
Kershaw also laps the competition in a third important statistic that is used frequently in arbitration negotiations: strikeouts. His 232 strikeouts are more than anyone else in my database among his comparable group of pitchers. The previous record of strikeouts going into the third year of eligibility belonged to Erik Bedard who had 221 strikeouts in 2007, but had just a 13-5 record with a 3.16 ERA and only had 182 innings pitched. His $3.575MM raise is far short of where Kershaw will land. The next most belonged to Lincecum, who had 220 on the way to his $4.25MM raise.
Both Kershaw and Max Scherzer are in the same arbitration class and will be coming up for arbitration at the same time. Both of them seem very likely to break Zambrano’s $5.9MM record raise handily. Since you can use players who sign earlier in the offseason as comparables in arbitration negotiations, these two guys will probably be eager to hear what the other signs for. Scherzer had a 21-3 record this past season, but had 2.90 ERA. He at least had more wins than Kershaw, though obviously his ERA is far worse, and he also had fewer innings (214 1/3) and a similar number of strikeouts (240). This does make him probably the best comparable for Kershaw. At the same time, Scherzer’s team may hope that Kershaw agrees to a deal first so that they can use him as a comparable in their negotiations.
It seems quite possible that Kershaw will just sign a long-term extension instead, especially given the rumors of a gigantic offer during the season by the Dodgers. However, if not, look for Kershaw to handily break the record of what a third-time eligible starting pitcher earns.