General managers across the major leagues are already drooling.
After the 2014 season, left-hander Clayton Kershaw will be a free agent, and he will be just 26 years old.
The largest contract ever awarded a pitcher likely awaits Kershaw, who captured his second National League Cy Young Award in three years on Nov. 13. Kershaw joined Sandy Koufax as the only Dodgers to win the award multiple times.
Kershaw got 29 of 30 first-place votes for the NL award. St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright took second, receiving the other first-place vote, and Miami Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez came in third.
Asked about his future, Kershaw said on MLB Network, "I do love L.A. I really think we can win there, too. We'll just see what happens. It's kind of an open book right now."
Kershaw dominated the National League pitching leaderboards. He finished first in ERA (1.83), strikeouts (232) and walks-and-hits-per-inning-pitched ratio (0.92). Kershaw came in second in innings pitched (236), and he tied for third with 16 wins.
Kershaw, 25, was the NL Cy Young winner in 2011, and he finished second in 2012 to R.A. Dickey, then of the New York Mets.
"This is such a cool thing," Kershaw said. "I can't even explain what it means to me. It really is a huge honor."
The honor also will earn him a few extra million dollars regardless of whether he re-signs with the Dodgers or hits the free agent market.
2013: 92-70, first place in NL West, lost to Cardinals in NL Championship Series
TEAM MVP: It's almost impossible to identify an MVP on the Dodgers this season. Does Adrian Gonzalez deserve it for his steady consistency, keeping the team's offense afloat for over two months before the rest of the lineup coalesced around him? Certainly. How about Clayton Kershaw, who had one of the most dominant performances by a pitcher in years? Absolutely. And how can you underestimate the impact Yasiel Puig had on the Dodgers, sparking life in a moribund last-place team when he was promoted in June? All are deserving -- but Hanley Ramirez might be the biggest difference-maker. Limited to roughly a half-season by injuries, Ramirez put up remarkable numbers -- a .345 average, 20 home runs, 57 RBIs and a 1.040 OPS that only one player in the majors topped (Detroit's Miguel Cabrera). "Puig gets a lot of attention," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "But Hanley really has been the force."
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: The runner-up for the NL MVP two years ago, Matt Kemp has been a non-factor for the majority of the Dodgers season. For the first two months of the season, he was a shadow of his former self offensively, still feeling the aftereffects of major shoulder surgery last October. Then a series of injuries to his hamstring, shoulder and ankle limited him to just 22 games after Memorial Day. Kemp was shut down by team doctors for the postseason due to a fragile ankle, and he subsequently underwent shoulder and ankle operations.
TOP PROSPECT: The Dodgers got big contributions from three rookies in 2013 -- LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu, OF Yasiel Puig and LHP Paco Rodriguez. It might be awhile before another rookie breaks into their lineup with such an impact. But 2012 first-rounder Corey Seager has that kind of potential. The younger brother of Mariners INF Kyle Seager, Corey started 2013 slowly, missing a month with a hamstring injury. When he returned, though, the 19-year-old might have been the best hitter in the Class A Midwest League. Even with the injury absence, he was among the league leaders in average (.309) and slugging percentage (.529) while hitting 12 home runs and driving in 57 runs before a late-season promotion to the California League. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Seager could outgrow his current position (shortstop), but the Dodgers love his offensive potential.
--RHP Ronald Belisario was non-tendered by the Dodgers on Dec. 2, making him a free agent. Belisario, 30, went 5-7 with one save and a 3.97 ERA in 77 appearances for the Dodgers this year.
--RHP Dan Haren signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Dodgers on Nov. 25. The contract also includes a $10 million player option for 2015 that vests if Haren pitches 180 innings next season, plus a potential for $3 million in bonuses for 2013.
The Dodgers view Haren as a potential fifth starter, but they will continue to look for rotation help, GM Ned Colletti said.
Haren, 33, went 10-14 with a 4.67 ERA in 169 2/3 innings for the Washington Nationals last season while missing a little more than two weeks due to shoulder inflammation at midseason. He signed a one-year, $13 million deal with the Nationals last December.
--2B Mark Ellis and LHP Chris Capuano had their 2014 contract options declined by the Dodgers on Oct. 31. Ellis had a $5.75 million club option but instead will receive a $1 million buyout. Capuano also will get $1 million rather than a $6 million club option. Ellis, 36, hit .270 with six home runs and 48 RBIs in 126 games this season. Capuano, 25, pitched in 105 2/3 innings this year and posted a 4-6 record with a 4.26 ERA. He split time between the rotation and the bullpen, starting 20 games and entering four in relief.
--INF Alexander Guerrero signed a four-year, $28 million deal with the Dodgers, and he likely will take over as the starting second baseman next year. The 26-year-old from Cuba could earn an additional $1 million per year based on bonuses tied to plate appearances. "He's a big league player," GM Ned Colletti said. "He's a big league infielder that has versatility to him, as far as positions he can play, and also he's an offensive force."
--RHP Peter Moylan was designated for assignment by the Dodgers, who needed a spot on the 40-man roster for newly signed INF Alexander Guerrero. Moylan, 34, went 1-0 with a 6.46 ERA in 14 appearances for the Dodgers this year.
--OF Alex Castellanos, designated for assignment by the Dodgers on Oct. 17, was traded to the Red Sox five days later in exchange for minor league OF Jeremy Hazelbaker and cash. Castellanos, 27, spent most of the 2013 season in Triple-A but did appear in eight games with the Dodgers, hitting .167 (3-for-18) with one homer and one RBI. Hazelbaker, 26, hit .257/.313/.374 with 11 homers, 54 RBIs and 37 steals for Triple-A Pawtucket this year.
--OF Matt Kemp, who had shoulder surgery Oct. 8, underwent another operation Oct. 14 to remove cartilage from his left ankle. Kemp sprained his ankle in a collision at home plate on July 21. He returned to action late in the season but did not appear in the playoffs. It will be about a month before Kemp can put weight on his foot, but his agent, Dave Stewart, expects him to be ready for Opening Day next season. Kemp, 29, played in just 73 games this year, hitting .270 with six homers. He has six years and $128 million remaining on his contract.
--LHP Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers have been discussing a contract extension off and on throughout the season with both sides keeping a tight lid on those discussions. But an ESPN report claims the Dodgers were willing to offer a $300 million package to lock Kershaw up long term.
--OF Yasiel Puig committed two errors in the Dodgers' season-ending loss in Game 6 of the NLCS, once again creating debate about the raw, unsophisticated aspects of Puig's game and how much more of that the Dodgers can tolerate. "Yasiel gets excited," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He's going to try to make plays all the time, and that's the way he is. But we've got to do a better job, I think, of helping him to mature and understand what we want done and the way to do it."
--OF Mike Baxter was claimed by the Dodgers on waivers from the New York Mets and OF Alex Castellanos was designated for assignment to open a spot on the Dodgers' 40-man roster. Baxter, 28, has a .229 career average with four home runs in 194 games with the Padres and Mets over the past four seasons. Castellanos, 27, spent most of the 2013 season in Triple-A but did appear in eight games with the Dodgers.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If you don't win, what's the point? It doesn't really matter, all this other stuff. We had some good moments this year. We put together a good streak there toward the middle. But really, unless you win the whole thing, it doesn't really make a difference." -- LHP Clayton Kershaw, after the Dodgers were eliminated in the NLCS.
The most expensive restoration project in major league history was a success even though the Dodgers fell short of their ultimate goal and have still not been to the World Series since 1988. The lion's share of the NL West championship roster will be back in 2014 with expectations every bit as high.
The Dodgers' financial muscle and aggressive approach of the new ownership group will put them in the middle of everything this offseason, whether it's Robinson Cano's free agency or David Price trade speculation. They could also look to move an outfielder with four everyday players signed to multiyear deals (Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford).
BIGGEST NEEDS: The Dodgers will try to rebuild a bullpen that could lose two of its most effective pieces (free agents Brian Wilson and J.P. Howell). Third base is an area that could be upgraded.
ARRIVALS: INF Alexander Guerrero (free agent from Cuba), RHP Dan Haren (free agent from Nationals)
DEPARTURES: INF Nick Punto (free agent, signed with A's), INF/OF Skip Schumaker (free agent, signed with Cardinals), RHP Ricky Nolasco (free agent, signed with Twins)
FREE AGENTS: RHP Brian Wilson, LHP J.P. Howell, RHP Carlos Marmol, RHP Edinson Volquez, 3B Juan Uribe, INF Michael Young, INF/OF Jerry Hairston Jr., 2B Mark Ellis, LHP Chris Capuano, RHP Ronald Belisario
The bullpen would take a hit if Howell and Wilson (who will likely sign to be a closer elsewhere) do not return.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: C A.J. Ellis, LHP Scott Elbert, RHP Kenley Jansen, LHP Clayton Kershaw
The Dodgers already have $161.5 million committed to 11 players under contract for 2014. That total figures to get even higher with this group. Ellis and Jansen are key performers who should get significant raises. And the Dodgers are negotiating a multi-year contract extension with Kershaw that should make him the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history.
IN LIMBO: OF Andre Ethier, RHP Chad Billingsley, RHP Josh Beckett
Ethier is the most likely of the Dodgers' four frontline outfielders to be traded, and his name will no doubt come up in hot stove rumors. Beckett and Billingsley are recovering from season-ending surgeries. Their projected status could go a long way toward affecting the Dodgers' offseason plans.
--OF Matt Kemp (left shoulder surgery in October 2013, left ankle surgery in October 2013) is expected to be ready for spring training.
--OF Andre Ethier (sore left ankle) played through the ailment in the playoffs. He is expected to be ready for spring training.
--RHP Chad Billingsley (Tommy John surgery in April 2013) began a throwing program before the end of the 2013 season. He could be ready by Opening Day or shortly thereafter.
--LHP Scott Elbert (Tommy John surgery in June 2013) could be ready to pitch sometime in the spring.
--RHP Josh Beckett (thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in July 2013) had a rib removed to address nerve issues that were causing numbness and tingling in his pitching hand. Beckett began a throwing program in late August, and he should be ready for spring training.
--SS Hanley Ramirez (hairline fracture of left ribcage) was injured in the first game of the NL Championship Series. He played with the injury, and it is expected to heal with rest during the offseason.
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