Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The $30 Million Club begins with Clayton Kershaw

If there was ever someone who would break the $30 million annual salary plateau, it was Clayton Kershaw.  And boy does he deserve it.

The Dodgers and Kershaw agreed to a seven-year, $215 million deal today, with an out clause after five years.  It's by far the highest salary for a pitcher, eclipsing Justin Verlander's $180 million he signed for last season.  It's also the highest per year salary ever ($30,714,286 to be exact), breaking Roger Clemens's $28 million he signed for in the 2007 season.


As a die-hard Dodger fan, I'm pumped for a variety of reasons.  Kershaw's starts are "Must See TV" every fifth day, as his dazzling display of fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup can get any hitter out.  He's also the ultimate competitor, always looking for an advantage and battling to the last out.

He also means everything to Los Angeles, as he's earned his star status by winning two of the past three NL Cy Young Awards, including a second place finish to R.A. Dickey in 2012.

It's also exciting that the Dodgers didn't actually give him $300 million, which has been rumored since last summer.  Hey, I love the guy, but that's a whole lot of bread, especially for a position so fragile as pitcher.  $214 is certainly no joke, but MUCH more reasonable.

While there's a whole lot to like about this deal, I also have to acknowledge some obvious risks.  As I just mentioned, there's always some apprehension when a pitcher not only receives so much dough, but gets multiple years as well.  It's understandable, especially considering guys like Stephen Strasburg and Matt Harvey have gone through Tommy John surgeries lately.

Plus, the Dodgers have been burned in the past by dishing out big deals for pitchers.  Remember Kevin Brown?  He was pretty good for a bit, but that's it.  How about Jason Schmidt?  Yuck.  The Dodgers have also given big deals to Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, and while Ryu held up very well, Greinke had some ups and downs in the first half of last season with injuries.

The bottom line is that in order to keep a superstar, some concessions had to be made by Ned Colletti, and that's exactly what happened.  Perhaps a little by Kershaw as well, as that $300 million deal could have come from some other team in free agency.  We'll never know, and Dodger fans are grateful for it.

Now that Kershaw has his money and comfort of officially calling LA his home for the next several years, he'll have to do the same thing any other player with a big contract has had to do: prove that he's worth it.  I can say with full confidence that there's no need to worry about that at all.  Kershaw is a stud, plain and simple.  And he'll continue to be one going forward.

Should we expect a 1.83 ERA and 232 K's for the next seven seasons?  Probably not, and we shouldn't hold even someone as great as him to such a high standard.  The 2013 season was a historically magnificent season, and even he would be hard pressed to match it.  Let's not expect a complete game shutout every fifth day either.

What we can expect is the same dominant "gamer" we've grown to love the last few years.  And we should also expect many big postseason starts as well.  That's the guy I'm looking forward to seeing.

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