In yet another offseason marked with exorbitant free agent contracts, it was a contract extension that stole the show Wednesday.
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Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers avoided arbitration -- and set a record for guaranteed money for a pitcher in the process -- by agreeing to a seven-year, $215 million contract. The contract surpasses the seven-year, $180 million deal the Tigers and Justin Verlander agreed upon last March.
The 25-year-old Texan certainly earned the raise. Kershaw dominated the league en route to posting a 1.83 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 232/52 K/BB ratio in 236 innings last season. He also secured his second Cy Young award in the past three seasons, coming in seventh in National League MVP voting.
The deal wasn't a complete surprise, as Dodgers president Stan Kasten and general manager Ned Colletti had stated a desire to get something hammered out before Friday's deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players to exchange salary figures.
"We have had conversations for a while," Colletti said on January 8. "We have a desire to keep him here for a long time."
The new contract does just that. Kershaw will earn $22 million in 2014, $18 of which will come in the form of a signing bonus. That leaves the Dodgers some wiggle room to sign another starter for next season, possibly Masahiro Tanaka. Starting in 2015, Kershaw will make no less than $30 million per season until 2020.
Despite the length of the deal, Kershaw may not be in Dodger blue as long as it seems. The deal includes an opt-out clause for the southpaw after five years. If he experiences a similar level of success over the next five seasons, Kershaw may well opt to become a free agent before his age-31 season.
In that event, the Dodgers would only be on the hook for five years and $150 million, a reasonable price for the best pitcher in the game in his prime. Even if he plays out the duration of his contract, Kershaw could be worth enough in the early part of the deal to make it a good deal for the team.
Kershaw will be hard-pressed to repeat his 2013 numbers going forward, but he'll likely remain a Cy Young contender for the duration of his deal, regardless of whether it's five or seven years. Even if he comes back to Earth next season, count on Kershaw to once again be amongst the league leaders at the pitching position.
Holland To Miss Three Months
The news was less good for another southpaw this past week.
It came out that Derek Holland would miss approximately half the season after having microfracture surgery on his left knee. Holland required surgery last week after tripping over his dog while running up his stairs. His surgery, which took place Friday, was to repair torn cartilage behind the knee.
“I know I’m in great hands, and these guys will do everything they can to help me get better,” Holland said of the rehab process. “I have to go step by step and not overdo it.”
In his absence, the Rangers will have to try to replace a pitcher who recorded a 3.42 ERA and 189 strikeouts in 213 innings this past season. Their options include free agent Jerome Williams, to whom the club had been linked in the wake of Holland's injury, and returning pitcher Tanner Scheppers, who has been instructed to prepare as a starter for the upcoming season after pitching out of the bullpen last year.
Another option would be to pursue Japanese pitcher Tanaka. The Rangers made a splash two offseasons ago with the addition of fellow Japanese import Yu Darvish, so they're comfortable spending on a relatively unknown quantity. And despite the fact that Holland should return around the All-Star break, the Rangers could still get use out of another quality starter in their quest for a world championship. The additions of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo show the organization is serious about making a run in 2014; the addition of Tanaka would cement their place as one of the favorites.
Hot Stove Quick Hits: A 162-game suspension was handed down to Alex Rodriguez by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz. Rodriguez plans to fight the suspension and has already stated his intent to report for spring training. The saga continues ... Kershaw wasn't the only player to avoid arbitration in advance of Friday's deadline. Stephen Strasburg, Seth Smith, Dayan Viciedo, Josh Outman, Michael Saunders and many more also avoided the process with one-year deals. The Nationals' ace will make $3.975 million in 2014, a number that could turn out to be a bargain if he's up to form ... Josh Collmenter avoided arbitration with the Diamondbacks as well, but instead of the one-year pact, he signed a two-year deal worth $2.425 million. Options included could bring the terms of the deal to four years and $6.5 million ... among those receiving minor league contracts with clubs were Delmon Young, Dylan Axelrod, Chris Coglan, Nyjer Morgan, Luis Vizcaino, Adron Chambers, Jeff Francis, Cesar Izturis and Scott Sizemore ... the Yankees designated OF Vernon Wells for assignment. He started like a house on fire last season but finished with a lowly .233/.282/.349 line ... the Angels have been in contact with Matt Garza. A match between the two would make a lot of sense, but the pitching market isn't likely to move until Tanaka makes a decision ... Pablo Sandoval has lost weight this offseason, but the third baseman is non-committal as to how much. Either way, Kung Fu Panda seems primed to show up in the BSOHL this spring.