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Clayton Kershaw next in line at ATM that's shelling out big bucks for aces

Tim Brown
Yahoo Sports

LOS ANGELES – So along comes Clayton Kershaw at a time when there's a fellow pitcher who could make $200 million over a single contract, who is five years older than him, who is towing the same number of Cy Young Awards.

Along comes Kershaw in the same waning offseason that bore $180 million — plus a $22 million vesting option — for Justin Verlander, $175 million for Felix Hernandez and, in his own clubhouse, $147 million for Zack Greinke. By the month Kershaw turned 25, 11 starting pitchers cleared an average of $20 million a year.

Along comes Kershaw as the Los Angeles Dodgers arrive at the one-year anniversary of their sale, a $2 billion thunderbolt that signaled their return as big boys in the marketplace and precipitated a player grab that will result in something close to the largest payroll in baseball history.

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Clayton Kershaw is earning $11 million this season for the Dodgers. (USA Today Sports)

He's next.

In the bubbly wake of Verlander, Hernandez and Greinke, Kershaw offers more years of prime, more left-handedness, and is every bit the solid citizen. The man builds orphanages in Africa, for heaven's sake.

And while you might wonder if baseball, for all its riches, can sustain so many contracts of so many dollars over so many years, the Dodgers probably won't be bogged down by such sobriety. Whether it comes in the final moments of this offseason – the Dodgers open Monday afternoon against the San Francisco Giants and Kershaw has said negotiations would end then – or the final moments of next offseason, there will be a contract. It will be big. And it will be sustainable.

Kershaw hasn't talked much about it much. After his final spring start – Wednesday in Peoria – he stuck out his bottom lip and shook his head at a contract question. He'll make $11 million this season. He has a final arbitration year after that. Then, free agency, if it comes to that.

"I'm excited to get to pitch this year," he said, somewhat bemused. "I have a contract for this year. I'm pretty sure I'll have one next year too."

[Jeff Passan: Tigers make savvy $180M investment in Justin Verlander]

Pressed on whether negotiations between his agent, Casey Close, and the Dodgers had advanced, he opened his mouth, closed it, then offered, "You know, I don't want to talk about it."

Nudged again, asked if an agreement could be reached by Monday, Kershaw grinned accommodatingly and said, "Never know." All lilting at the end, like "stay tuned" or "miracles happen," one of the two.

Regardless, this ends well for Kershaw. It probably ends well for the Dodgers. An Internet report Friday said the two were nearing agreement on an eight-year, $200 million extension. The Dodgers have not been of the mood to comment either way, though one official shook his head gravely at the report.

Negotiations proceed. As of Friday afternoon, there was nothing. A lot could change in a day, two, almost three. Presumably, if there is a handshake, it will be to seal something in the range of eight years, and something in the neighborhood of $200 million. That would appear to be where the market is headed.

[Related: Big League Stew's AL West preview]

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Justin Verlander set the record Friday with his contract that could hit $202 million. (Reuters)

The industry certainly seems of the mood to spend. On the day after it was learned Johan Santana will have given the New York Mets 46 wins for their $137.5 million, the Tigers threw perhaps $202 million at Verlander. Rightfully so, nobody thought that was a bad idea. Verlander is our Bob Gibson. A few weeks back, the Dodgers waited out tests on Greinke's right elbow. He hadn't thrown an inning for them yet.

Some pitchers, usually the best ones, will throw right through their own bodies for another few innings, for another win, for a chance to prove they're tougher than the next guy. Like Santana. Like Chris Carpenter. General managers and their owners can't help but believe, too. This one will be different. He won't be Barry Zito or Mike Hampton or Kevin Brown. He'll be Mike Mussina. He'll be Cliff Lee. He'll be CC Sabathia, you know, so far.

[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Angels SP C.J. Wilson on season outlook]

If there were a way to tell one from the other – those who break or fail from those who don't – no one's quite figured it out yet. So, they believe, and they spend, and they hope.

Then along comes Clayton Kershaw, the right pitcher in the right place at the right time.

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