In the hip hop song “Glamor Life,” Cuban Link says, “If it doesn’t make dollars then it doesn’t make sense.” Well the Dodgers have dollars and Clayton Kershaw definitely makes sense. How much sense does Kershaw make for the Dodgers? About $215 million dollars worth of sense as it was announced on Wednesday that, the Dodgers and Kershaw came to an agreement on a 7 year/$215 million dollar contract extension. The contract also has a player opt out clause after 5 years, which would mean Kershaw could be a free agent at the age of 30.
[Update] On Thursday Joel Sherman of the new york post reported via Twitter that, Kershaw could void his contract before the start of the next season if traded to another team mid-season, or immediately after the season ends if he is traded before the season begins. Further more, if Kershaw is traded in the off-season he would get a one time $3 million dollar bonus. Kershaw could also earn bonuses with the Dodgers. He would get $1 million for winning the Cy Young award or, $500,000 for coming in second or third.
This kind of contract is most deserving for the two reasons. The first reason is his age, while most players get this kind of contract in their peak or tail end of their prime, Kershaw is 2 to 3 years away from entering his prime. The second is his dominance on the mound. Kershaw has proved he’s no flash in the pan talent. With his 1.83 ERA in 2013, Kershaw became only the third pitcher in MLB history to lead the MLB in ERA three years in a row. He’s not just the number one guy for the Dodgers, Kershaw is a “true” ace that could go to any team in the Majors and automatically be their number one guy. That type of pitcher are a rarity in baseball to be sure.
In the last three seasons Kershaw has been simply amazing, posting a 2.21 ERA, 2.58 FIP, 9.15 K/9, and a 2.19 BB/9 in that time span, which is good for a 18.5 WAR. One of the reasons Kershaw has been so dominate is his continued improvement on his slider. When he debuted with the Dodgers in 2008, Clayton threw a fastball (93mph), changeup (85mph), and the most devastating curveball (74mph) known to man. The only flaw was that batters got wise with two strike and would just let the curve go without taking a swing.
In 2009 he added the slider (85mph) to his repertoire to solve the problem and, every year it just keeps getting better. As you can see looking at Kershaws Wiff Percentage in the chart above, via Brooks Baseball, the rate at which batters swing and miss on his slider has not only jumped up almost every year and is the second most thrown pitch next to the fastball. He’s still mostly a three pitch pitcher as he rarely uses the changeup.
Besides his on-field talents another reason it’s a good move by the Dodgers is his off-field actions. Kershaw involves himself in a lot of charity work through Kershaw’s Challenge, a foundation that aids at-risk children. Its cornerstone charity, Arise Africa,has built and is maintaining an orphanage in Zambia. Kershaw is also involved with Sharefest in Los Angeles and Mercy Street in Dallas, which both sponsor after-school programs and sports for children. He also donated $500 dollars for every strikeout he’s gotten since 2011, which has amounted to $354,500 dollars to date.
All this earned Kershaw the 2013 Branch Rickey Award, which is designed to honor those in baseball who contribute unselfishly to their communities and who are strong role models for young people. Speaking of being a role model Clayton is probably one of the best you can have. Despite his success and popularity he maintains a relatively quiet privet life. You won’t see him on TMZ rubbing shoulders with celebrities, running up $25,000 dollar tabs at the club, or getting arrested for doing 110 mph.
In fact in my opinion, and some may argue this, Kershaw has quietly passed up Matt Kemp to become the face of the franchise. Ticket sales are a little higher when he starts because fans know it’s almost an automatic win for the team. So Dodger fans breathe a sigh of relief because Clayton Kershaw is going to be a Dodger for a long time to come. This deal is good for the franchise, the team, and most importantly us fans.