Clayton Kershaw’s 2021 season didn’t go as hoped. The Dodgers icon was sharp when healthy and posted his best K-BB% (25.3) since 2017, ultimately logging a 3.55 ERA in 121 1/3 innings with even better fielding-independent marks. That said, Kershaw also missed more than two months due to a forearm injury and was only able to briefly return before a recurrence of that same issue wiped him out for the postseason. Asked at his end-of-season press conference whether Kershaw would be viewed differently than other free agents because of his history with the club, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told reporters that’s likely to be the case (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Juan Toribio):
“Yeah, I think that’s fair,” said Friedman. “Obviously what he’s meant to this organization, to the city — from his standpoint, I think it’s all about what makes sense for him and Ellen and their family. … “I think, taking off my president of baseball operations hat, there’s something nostalgic and great about Kersh playing with one team and being able to win another championship and having a parade.”
Friedman noted that Kershaw has earned the right to do what’s best for his family but spoke glowingly of the lefty’s legacy and implied a desire to continue the relationship. Kershaw reportedly won’t require surgery, and the Dodgers will have the option of making a qualifying offer to the veteran southpaw.
More notes on the looming free-agent market for starting pitchers…
- There’s a “strong” chance that the Giants will push to work out a multi-year deal to keep Kevin Gausman atop their rotation, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The Giants value the chemistry that was developed during this year’s postseason push and have interest in maintaining some continuity, which could lead them to explore reunions with any of Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood. San Francisco president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has already gone on record to call the rotation the team’s “number one priority” this offseason, no surprise given the impending free agencies of Gausman, DeSclafani, Wood and Johnny Cueto (whose $22MM club option will assuredly be bought out for $5MM). The Giants have about as much payroll flexibility as any team in baseball, giving Zaidi and his staff myriad options in rebuilding the rotation over the coming months. It certainly stands to reason they’ll be active in the market for Gausman, who has an even 3.00 ERA with stellar strikeout and walk numbers (30% and 6.5%, respectively) over 251 2/3 innings in black and orange since the start of 2020.
- Gausman received a qualifying offer last winter, making him ineligible for another in his career. The Giants will have to decide whether to offer an $18.4MM QO to one or both of DeSclafani and Wood in the coming days, though. Grant Brisbee of the Athletic opines the club should offer a QO to DeSclafani based on the aforementioned rotation uncertainty and payroll flexibility. Signed to a bounceback deal last offseason following a poor 2020 with the Reds, DeSclafani made 31 starts and worked 167 2/3 innings of 3.17 ERA/4.11 SIERA ball this past season. Brisbee doesn’t expect San Francisco to risk that lofty one-year sum on a QO for Wood, however. Also a low-cost flier last winter, Wood impressed with 138 2/3 frames with a 3.83 ERA/3.60 SIERA. Injuries limited the veteran southpaw to just 48 1/3 combined innings from 2019-20, though, and it remains to be seen how much of an effect durability concerns could have on Wood’s free agent market this time around.