Clayton Kershaw became a newly minted millionaire and avoided a potentially contentious salary arbitration hearing by signing a two-year, $19-million contract with the Dodgers on Tuesday.
"I think everybody feels good about it," Kershaw said.
Kershaw, who was paid $500,000 in his Cy Young Award season last year, will receive $7.5 million next season in addition to a $500,000 signing bonus. He will draw an $11-million salary in 2013.
The Dodgers gained a measure of security, too, knowing what they owe their ace in two of the three seasons before he becomes eligible for free agency. Kershaw can become a free agent for the first time after the 2014 season.
Kershaw and the Dodgers were exactly a week away from a scheduled arbitration hearing to determine his salary for the upcoming season. Kershaw, who was eligible for arbitration for the first time, was asking for $10 million. The Dodgers were offering $6.5 million.
With Kershaw agreeing to defer $2 million of his salary this year to 2013, the Dodgers will pay him $6 million this season, well below the midpoint of the figures the two sides filed for arbitration.
At a lunch stop near USC on the Dodgers' community caravan Tuesday, Kershaw said that what he might have heard the team's representatives say about him during an arbitration hearing was not a concern.
"I didn't really care," he said. "People have to make cases. That's their job. We have to present the other case."
General Manager Ned Colletti said he was certain the 23-year-old left-hander was mature enough to not allow what was said in a hearing room to hurt his feelings, but he was relieved to settle the case.
"It's really a last resort," Colletti said of facing an arbitration panel.
Colletti also pointed to Kershaw's makeup as a reason why his newfound wealth would not adversely affect his performance.
"When you think about how he's 23 years old and how he's progressed as a pitcher, how he's taken his great gift and put in the work to refine it, that says a lot about him," Colletti said.
Colletti said the Dodgers discussed a potential four-year deal with Kershaw that would have bought out his first year of free agency. The possibility of a four-year contract that included an option for a fifth year was also raised.
Kershaw was selected seventh overall in the 2006 draft out a high school in suburban Dallas. He was in the majors less two years later, drawing comparisons to Sandy Koufax upon his arrival.
He won the National League's triple crown of pitching last season, leading the league with 21 wins, a 2.28 earned-run average and 248 strikeouts.
The off-season was chaotic, a result of the multiple awards banquets he attended. He picked up his Cy Young Award in New York, the Warren Spahn Award as the top left-hander in baseball in Oklahoma City and the Texas Professional Baseball Player of the Year Award in Arlington. He also visited Africa for the second consecutive year on a humanitarian trip.
"It's been really busy," Kershaw said. "But, at the same time, it's all been really good stuff. You never know when it's going to happen again, so you might as well embrace it and enjoy it."