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Could Clayton Kershaw be baseball's first $200-million pitcher?

November 29, 2012|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Clayton Kershaw is in the middle of a two-year, $19-million contract but could make a whole lot more in his next deal.
Clayton Kershaw is in the middle of a two-year, $19-million contract but… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

How would you like to be Clayton Kershaw? He’s young, talented, intelligent, highly competitive, charitable, mature beyond his years and rich.

And on the cusp of being a whole lot richer.

Kershaw is currently in the middle of a two-year, $19-million contract. That’s more money than most can imagine ever spending, though they have plenty of fun trying.

Yet it could prove to be only one-tenth the value of his next deal.

ESPN’s Buster Olney said in a video blog that Kershaw is “absolutely set up to be the first $200-million pitcher in baseball history.”

Now that goes just a little against Dodgers Chairman Mark Walter’s aversion to signing starters to long-term deals -- “pitchers break”  -- but it could very well happen. And the force in pushing the price to the baseball stratosphere could prove to be the Dodgers themselves.

The current record contract for a starting pitcher is the seven-year, $161-million deal the Yankees signed CC Sabathia to in 2009. Some, however, think free-agent right-hander Zack Greinke could break that barrier before he signs this winter.

One team looking at signing Greinke is the Dodgers. Now whether you actually believe Greinke is a super elite pitcher worthy of a record-breaking contract is not really the point. The market will determine his price. And right now the one club no other team wants to get into a bidding war with is the Dodgers and their magic printing plates.

Kershaw has a lot more to offer than Greinke. He’s 4½ years younger, he’s left-handed, has superior numbers across the board and has proven he can handle the pressure in a major market.

Kershaw told The Times’ Dylan Hernandez back in August he was open to discussing a long-term deal with the Dodgers, and General Manager Ned Colletti told Hernandez earlier this month they would probably address it at the end of the current free-agency signing period.

Kershaw is signed through the coming season, then eligible for one more year of arbitration before he could become a free agent after the 2014 season. The only urgency is, the longer they wait, the more it could cost to sign him.

There is always a health risk in signing a pitcher to a long-term deal. And last September, Kershaw battled a hip issue that forced him to miss a start against the Giants, and for awhile, some worried it would require surgery.

But Kershaw battled back and pitched very well, posting a 0.64 ERA in his final four starts. After winning the National League Cy Young award in 2011, he finished second last season, going 14-9 with a 2.53 ERA and 1.02 WHIP.

He doesn’t turn 25 until March, a wealthy young man set to become a whole lot wealthier.

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