As expected, the Dodgers officially announced that both Corey Seager and Chris Taylor will receive qualifying offers prior to today’s 4pm CT deadline. However, Seager and Taylor were the only players mentioned, meaning that Clayton Kershaw will enter free agency without the qualifying offer attached to his services.
Kershaw, Taylor, and Seager were the only Dodger free agents who were both eligible for the QO (Max Scherzer and Kenley Jansen weren’t eligible, for the record) and seemed like candidates to be issued the one-year, $18.4MM deal. Seager was obviously a no-brainer and Taylor also seemed like an increasingly obvious lock for the QO, but Kershaw’s case suddenly became much cloudier due to his season-ending forearm injury. While Kershaw’s injury won’t require surgery and he expects to be ready for Spring Training, the issue certainly seems substantial enough for the Dodgers to have doubts about an $18.4MM commitment.
It isn’t a guarantee that Kershaw would have accepted a qualifying offer, but it would certainly seem like a possibility considering his injury-shortened 2021 campaign. Elbow inflammation sidelined Kershaw for over two months, and his forearm problems then prevented him from taking part in the Dodgers’ postseason run. Over 121 2/3 innings pitched, however, Kershaw still posted a 3.55 ERA with outstanding strikeout (29.5%) and walk (4.3%) rates.
The lack of a QO doesn’t necessarily spell the end of Kershaw’s run in a Dodgers uniform. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has already said that the team will approach Kershaw’s trip to the open market in a different manner than they would a normal free agent, given Kershaw’s legendary status in Los Angeles.
Interpreted another way, however, it could be that the Dodgers are giving Kershaw a bit of leeway towards a potential departure by not extending a qualifying offer. If Kershaw rejected a QO, his new team would have to give up a draft pick and potentially international bonus pool money to sign him, which could have hampered Kershaw’s market to some extent.
Now, the southpaw doesn’t have anything hindering his first-ever trip to free agency, which would at least slightly increase the chance that Kershaw’s Dodgers tenure could be up after 14 seasons. There has been speculation that the Texas native might be interested in pitching closer to home, which would put the Astros and particularly the Rangers (Kershaw is from Dallas and lives in the area) on the radar as possible landing spots.