With Zack Greinke set to draw an average salary of $24.5 million over the next six years, some baseball executives and agents are wondering whether Clayton Kershaw could become the first pitcher to earn $30 million a year.
At 24, Kershaw is five years younger than Greinke. He's also considered a better pitcher.
"He's a true No. 1," said one agent, who doesn't represent Kershaw.
Kershaw is heading into the second year of a two-year, $19-million contract. He can't become a free agent until after the 2014 season.
But the closer the left-hander moves to free agency, the closer he could move to that $30-million-a-year mark. So with Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu now signed, the Dodgers plan to approach their ace in the near future to talk about a long-term contract extension.
"As we get through the next few weeks, we'll look into that and see what we can do," General Manager Ned Colletti said.
The Dodgers spent more than $200 million to land Greinke and Ryu. Do they have enough money remaining to sign Kershaw to a multiyear extension?
"I believe so," he said.
The hip problems Kershaw had near the end of the 2012 season wouldn't prevent the Dodgers from making a long-term commitment to him, as they believe the issue won't resurface.
Greinke's contract, which became official Monday when the right-hander passed a physical examination, could serve as a guide in talks. Greinke and Kershaw are represented by the same agency.
The Dodgers might be able to sign Kershaw to a shorter and more cost-effective deal if they lock him up this winter, as they could offer him security in exchange for money.
Kershaw said in late August he would be open to discussing a new deal this winter.
"Yeah, sure, I'm always open to talks," Kershaw said at the time. "I've had a great time here. I love the guys and I love everything about L.A."
But Kershaw could gamble that he will remain healthy for another season and wait until next winter. Eligible for salary arbitration and only a year away from free agency, he might be able to extract a larger payday from the Dodgers.
Kershaw could sign a record contract without ever entering the free-agent market. Cole Hamels wasn't a free agent but was paid like one when he signed a new contract with the Philadelphia Phillies in July: $144 million over six years.
The Dodgers, however, are unlikely to offer Kershaw no-trade protection.
The contract extensions for Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier didn't include no-trade provisions. Greinke's and Ryu's deals didn't, either.
Again, Greinke's contract could offer ideas on how compromises can be reached.
If Greinke is traded, he can void the remainder of the contract at the end of that season.
Greinke can also become a free agent after three years. The New York Yankees included a similar escape clause in the seven-year, $161-million deal they gave CC Sabathia in 2008. Sabathia opted out after three seasons and the Yankees re-signed him by adding a $30-million extension to his original deal.