Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
The only surprise here is that the Dodgers needed to re-sign Kershaw. You mean they didn’t already have him on a lifetime deal?
In fact he signed for one year at $20 million, making him a free agent again this winter and almost certainly leading to another one-year, $20 million contract with the Dodgers.
What L.A. got for that $20 million was nothing short of a lifeline. It would have been difficult to imagine all the pitching problems that beset the Dodgers. Walker Buehler went down with a season-ending injury, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May fell out, Julio Urias was sidelined while a domestic violence allegation is sorted out.
Through it all, there stood Kershaw as he always has. Granted, at age 35 the workload got a little shorter. He produced 131 innings in 24 starts, well off his Cy Young peaks of 33 and 233. But the ERA was still there (2.46) and he could be counted on, witness the 13-5 record.
In fact even at his comparatively advanced age he still led the depleted staff in wins, ERA, innings and strikeouts. No wonder the Dodgers held on to first place from mid-July through season’s end.
Kershaw’s 3.7 WAR trailed only Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Will Smith on the whole team. His 2.1 WPA was down from 2.7 one season earlier, but still fourth best among the 15 $20 million signees.
The only question going in to this winter is whether Kershaw can do it again in 2024. Do not bet against him. Transactional grade: A