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Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw apparently working on a deal

Neither the club nor the pitcher would comment, but a person familiar with the situation says that the sides are talking.

March 30, 2013|By Steve Dilbeck

Record-breaking major league contracts were the order of the day, but baseball's newest financial power may yet be heard from.

People familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Friday that the Dodgers were having contract conversations with former National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw.

The cost of securing Kershaw long term rose earlier Friday when right-hander Justin Verlander agreed to a $180-million, seven-year deal with the Detroit Tigers, and catcher Buster Posey agreed to a $167-million, nine-year extension with the San Francisco Giants.

Kershaw has said he doesn't want to deal with any negotiations once the season begins. The Dodgers open the season Monday against the Giants.

On Friday, the left-hander would not discuss any ongoing contract conversation with the Dodgers and neither would team President Stan Kasten and General Manager Ned Colletti.

"If it's about contract stuff, I don't want to say anything," Kershaw said.

Mark Walter, the Dodgers' chairman, also declined to discuss the negotiations but said he hoped the Dodgers would be able to strike a deal with Kershaw.

"He's a great kid," Walter said. "If you don't take care of a kid like him, who are you going to take care of?"

Kershaw won the NL Cy Young Award in 2011 and came in second last year. He will be paid $11 million this season but is not eligible for free agency until after the 2014 season.

Verlander was the 2011 American League Cy Young Award winner and MVP. But Verlander is 30, and Kershaw is only 25 and the Dodgers would be securing him through his prime.

And it isn't like the Guggenheim Baseball Management has been shy about passing money around.

The Dodgers' new owners have quickly surpassed the New York Yankees as the biggest economic power in baseball, paying a record $2.15 billion for the team last year and then boosting the payroll from about $90 million in 2012 to $230 million this season. They spent more than $100 million in improvements to Dodger Stadium in the off-season.

The Dodgers knew signing Kershaw would not come cheaply when the Seattle Mariners signed Felix Hernandez to a $175-million, seven-year deal in the off-season. Hernandez, who is two years older than Kershaw, was 13-9 with a 223 strikeouts and a 3.06 earned-run average last season.

Verlander further defined the marketplace Friday. Under his previous contract, Verlander had two years left at $20 million per season. That is rolled into the new deal, bringing it up to $180 million.

The contracts of Verlander and Hernandez average about $25 million per season. Kershaw is exactly the kind of athlete and character player the Dodgerswould like to build on, but he has to determine whether he wants to sign for the going rate or wait and discover what free agency could offer.

Verlander's signing leaves Kershaw as the best arm available should he hit the 2014 free-agent market. Last season, Kershaw was 14-9 with 229 strikeouts and a 2.53 ERA.

The market, however, keeps expanding. In December, the Dodgers signed right-hander Zack Greinke to a $147-million, six-year contract. Two months later, Seattle signed Hernandez.

sports@latimes.com

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