The decision gives Kershaw slightly more long-term stability. Kershaw’s previous deal had him under contract for $34.5 million in 2019 and $35 million in 2020. The extension takes him through another season at a similar salary.
It also pushes off Kershaw’s potential free agency another year. With the deal, Kershaw won’t be a free agent until the end of the 2021 season.
In 11 seasons with the team, Kershaw has posted a 2.39 ERA over 2,096 1/3 innings. He’s made seven All-Star teams, won three Cy Young awards, was the National League MVP in 2014 and tossed a no-hitter.
Following the Dodgers’ loss in the World Series, it was no guarantee Kershaw would remain with the club. He was asked about his contract situation shortly after his Game 5 loss to the Boston Red Sox, and told reporters he was undecided.
After a few days passed, it became clear Kershaw wanted to remain with the Dodgers. He pushed back his opt-out deadline in order to negotiate his extension with the team.
Before doing that, Kershaw likely had to balance whether it was worth it to hit the free-agent market with $70 million still remaining on his old deal. While still effective, Kershaw has been limited by injuries over the past three years. He’s failed to exceed 175 innings in each of those seasons. Despite that, he’s still posted a 2.26 ERA over that period.
There are other concerns, as well. Kershaw has seen his velocity take a step backward in recent years. He averaged over 94 mph with his fastball back in 2008, which was down to 91 mph in 2018. He also hasn’t been as effective in the postseason, putting up a 4.32 ERA over 152 playoff innings in his career.
While worrisome, those issues may not have kept Kershaw from getting more than $70 million on the open market. However, he may have found it difficult to secure $35 million per season. The decision to stay with the Dodgers combines the best of both worlds for Kershaw. He still receives his high annual salary in the short term, but also managed to secure a slightly longer deal with a team he knows well.
The allure of a long-term deal elsewhere may have been appealing, but Kershaw had plenty of reasons to remain with the Dodgers. Despite losing back-to-back World Series, the Dodgers are still built to contend in the short term. The team also has an endless supply of money and should be a popular destination for premier free agents who can join Kershaw in his quest for a ring.
Kershaw’s familiarity with the club likely played a role, as well. For a little over a decade, he’s been the face of the franchise. Some assumed there was no way he would leave the team. Kershaw did sign his massive seven-year, $215 million extension a year before he was eligible for free agency, so there is a history of Kershaw forgoing the market for the comfort of familiarity. That’s exactly what happened here.
For now, Kershaw is back with the Dodgers for at least three more seasons. With their first major free-agent question solved, the Dodgers can now turn their attention to bringing in the players who are finally going to get Kershaw his ring.
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