The countdown is on toward Clayton Kershaw’s big payday, which isn’t a matter of whether it will happen, but when.
Felix Hernandez of the Mariners became the highest paid pitcher in baseball history Thursday after signing a contract extension for 7-years/$175 million.
Kershaw, 25 in March, comes off a season where he went 14-9 with a 2.53 ERA, which was the best in baseball.
Meanwhile, Hernandez, 27 in April, went 13-9 with a 3.06 ERA, and hasn’t turned in a sub-3.00 ERA since 2010.
In fact, Kershaw’s career ERA (2.79) is nearly half a run better than that of Hernandez (3.22).
Nearly identical, right?
Save for the fact that Kershaw is two years younger and pitching in the National League.
Kershaw’s fastball averaged 93.0 against Hernandez’s 92.4.
Then there’s Kershaw’s FIP of 2.89 versus Hernandez’s 3.20.
Both pitchers were capable of winning 20 games apiece with the proper situations, but each suffered from a lack of run support.
However, on paper, Kershaw was the better pitcher, and will unseat Hernandez as the best pitcher in baseball without a mega-contract.
Cole Hamels got paid by the Phillies — receiving a 7-year/$153 million contract.
As did Kershaw’s new teammate Zack Greinke, who was given a 6-year/$159 million contract.
Dodgers GM Ned Colletti has gone on record to say that the team is not focusing on a Kershaw extension.
Luckily for the organization, Kershaw appears to be in no rush.
However, at some point this season, expect that to change.
Kershaw is arbitration-eligible at the end of this season, with the following year being the first chance he could test free agency.
Perhaps another one year deal is in store. It seems to be the most likely event.
When Kershaw becomes a free agent at age 26, the Dodgers can lock him into a deal of at least seven years, worth anywhere in the range of $200-250 million, and perhaps even longer and for more money.
If anybody deserves to be the highest paid pitcher in the game, it’s Clayton Kershaw.
Should his numbers not convince you last season, don’t forget 2011, when at age 23 Kershaw went 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA.
Guggenheim Partners will monitor this situation in a clever way. Once it deems the time to be right, expect Clayton Kershaw to be announced as the next Dodgers lifer.