With the Los Angeles Dodgers not extending a qualifying offer to Clayton Kershaw, the guessing game as to what lies ahead for the three-time Cy Young Award winner begins.
What is the next step for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw?
When Sunday’s qualifying offer deadline passed and the Los Angeles Dodgers had (not surprisingly) chosen to not extend a one-year, $18.4 million deal to the 33-year-old Kershaw, it may not have ended his time at Chavez Ravine, but it also showed that his career is entering a new phase.
When we last saw Kershaw, he was walking off the mound on October 1 after just 1.2 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers. Left forearm discomfort landed him on the 10-day disabled list and kept him out of the entire postseason for the Dodgers. It was the end to a season where Kershaw battled elbow inflammation and discomfort and made just 22 starts. It was also the end to a contract that lasted for three years and paid him $93 million, including $31 million last season.
Kershaw is expecting to avoid any kind of surgery and be ready in time for the start of 2022 spring training. The question becomes what jersey will he be wearing when that moment comes.
Whichever jersey he is wearing, Kershaw is entering the next phase of his Hall of Fame career, and it’s a phase which will come with a lower salary. Teams (including the Dodgers) will be glad to bring Kershaw into their rotation, but at a lower price than he has seen in recent years (he’s made more than $30 million in each of his last seven seasons).
This is the first time in his career that Kershaw enters the heart of the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. It’s very possible he will find himself back in Los Angeles, the franchise where he has pitched for 14 seasons and earned the 2014 National League Most Valuable Player and eight All-Star Game berths. However, if he does, it will be at the right price.
Los Angeles has plenty of questions about which of its 11 players who saw their contracts expire after the end of the campaign will return in 2022. For the first time in his career, one of those players is Kershaw, a key part of the franchise who could well have a different home and more team-friendly salary when the 2022 season begins.