Of all the huge contracts being thrown around, only one seems to be completely warranted: Clayton Kershaw’s seven-year, $215 million deal.
Of course, $30 million for any profession is crazy but given the increasing value of MLB contracts, Kershaw’s deal is right where it should be.
Since making his debut as a 20-year-old in 2008, Kershaw has been simply dominant. He’s never been hurt and has already won two Cy Young awards in just five full seasons.
Not to mention, his last three full seasons worth of ERAs have been 2.28, 2.53 and 1.83, all of which led the NL.
The highest-paid player in the big leagues should obviously be an impact player, and Kershaw undoubtedly fits that bill. Though the contract is not the largest in terms of overall value, the deal includes that highest annual salary in MLB history.
Kershaw’s on-field performance speaks for itself in earning this contract. But the one true factor in why this contract makes so much sense is that he will only be 26 years old when this upcoming season starts.
So seven years from now, he’ll still only be 32 and in the prime of his career. If he continues the pace he’s on, he could sign another five- or six-year deal at that point.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Mariners are locked in to Robinson Cano for 10 years, when Cano will be 41 years old. That is a huge risk, especially those last few seasons; Kershaw, though, may only be getting stronger by the time his deal runs out.
The Dodgers were smart in taking out insurance on this contract, just like the team did with the six-year, $147 million contract given last offseason to Zack Greinke. So the team would be off the hook if Kershaw were to get injured.
If you remember, the Dodgers were burned with the long-term pitching contracts of Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort. But even in just a short time, Kershaw has proven he can be more reliable than either of those pitchers.
Kershaw’s contract does include an opt-out clause after five years, so he could hypothetically earn even more money if he outperforms the dollar value.
Of course there’s a risk in signing any player to a multi-year deal. But for the Dodgers, at least they’ve seen Kershaw perform in Dodger Blue every fifth day for the past six seasons. It’s not like they are bringing in a player from another team or, even worse, from another country (see Masahiro Tanaka).
Assuming the Dodgers’ offense can pick up where it left off last season, Kershaw should be in prime position to turn in another 20-win season. He won 16 games last year, but the Dodgers were inept offensively early in the season, struggling to score runs for their ace.
Kershaw’s contract now sets the bar for David Price, who will be the next young lefty to cash in. Price’s contract may not crack the $200 million mark, but it will include a high annual salary.
And just imagine: If Kershaw, who plays every fifth day, is making this much, what will Mike Trout be making in arbitration after this season or when he signs his first long-term contract?
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