By most, if not all accounts, Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. Despite missing the first month of the season due to injury, Kershaw led the Majors in wins, winning percentage, complete games, WHIP, ERA and ERA+.
The ERA title was Kershaw’s fourth consecutive — becoming the first pitcher in MLB history to accomplish that feat. Kershaw’s last appearance on the mound ended with disappointment as he was again unable to hold off the St. Louis Cardinals in what wound up being an elimination loss for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Kershaw’s shortcomings in the postseason didn’t affect the recognition he received for his performance in 2014 as he won his third Cy Young Award in four years and first MVP Award. The Dodger ace became the first NL pitcher to win MVP since Bob Gibson in 1968.
Last season was the first of Kershaw’s seven-year, $215 million contract. At the time of signing, it was the largest contract for a pitcher in MLB history and Kershaw’s $30.7 million average annual salary was the highest among all players.
Although it may be an odd thing to say for a $215 million deal, Kershaw’s contract was in a sense dwarfed by Giancarlo Stanton’s signing of a 13-year, $325 million contract this week. Both contracts include an opt-out clause with Stanton’s also coming with a no-trade clause, which was a first for the Miami Marlins.
For comparison’s sake, below is the breakdown of both player’s contracts, beginning with Kershaw, who can opt out after 2018, courtesy of CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman:
2014: $4 million, plus $18 million signing bonus
2015: $30 million
2016: $32 million
2017: $33 million
2018: $33 million
2019: $32 million
2020: $33 million
Heyman also provides the annual breakdown of Stanton’s contract:
2015: $6.5 million
2016: $9 million
2017: $14.5 million
2018: $25 million
2019: $26 million
2020: $26 million
2021: $29 million
2022: $29 million
2023: $32 million
2024: $32 million
2025: $32 million
2026: $29 million
2027: $25 million
2028: $25 million option ($10 million buyout)
Should he elect to opt out, Kershaw will be 30 years old at the time of signing a new contract, though would turn 31 (March 26) before the start of the 2019 season. Whether by coincidence or planned, Stanton will be in the same age window at the time of being able to opt out of his contract in 2020.
Stanton’s contract differs noticeably in how the $325 million is distributed throughout the life of the deal. If the slugger is to opt out after the 2020 season, he would leave an astonishing $218 million on the table if he was eventually bought out in the final year or $223 million if he plays out the entire contract.
By backloading Stanton’s contract, allows the Marlins more flexibility in locking up the young talent on the team, namely ace Jose Fernandez, and bringing in
In what may certainly be pie in the sky for Dodgers fans, they could see Kershaw and Stanton together at Chavez Ravine as soon as 2021. However, that would require Stanton to opt out and walk away from the majority of the contract’s salary.
Kershaw would also had to have either opted out after 2018 and signed another contract with the Dodgers or signed a new deal after playing out the entire seven years of his original contract.
There is also of course the possibility of Stanton requesting a trade within the next few years, but his comments during Wednesday’s press conference indicate he’s invested in turning the Marlins franchise around.