Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in baseball, got paid on Wednesday. Like seriously P-A-I-D. ESPN’s Ramona Selburne reports that the lefty agreed on a seven-year, $215 million deal with an opt-out after five years. Doing a little simple math, that averages out to $30.7 million per year.
From Baseball Prospectus, here are the highest Average annual value contracts before Kershaw:
- 1. Roger Clemens, $28,000,022 (2007)
- 2. Alex Rodriguez, $27,500,000 (2008-17)
- 3. Justin Verlander, $25,714,286 (2013-19)
- 4. Alex Rodriguez, $25,200,000 (2001-10)
- 5. Ryan Howard, $25,000,000 (2012-16)
- . . Josh Hamilton, $25,000,000 (2013-17)
- . . Felix Hernandez, $25,000,000 (2013-19)
- 8. Zack Greinke, $24,500,000 (2013-18)
- 9. CC Sabathia, $24,400,000 (2012-16)
- 10. Cliff Lee, $24,000,000 (2011-15)
- . . . Albert Pujols, $24,000,000 (2012-21)
- . . . Cole Hamels, $24,000,000 (2013-18)
- . . . Robinson Cano, $24,000,000 (2014-23)
There’s a lot to process in the immediacy of the deal. What catches my eye is that Kershaw will average nearly $5 million more than both Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez are on their current deals, which both went into effect in 2013. One can only imagine how much reigning American League Cy Young winner Max Scherzer (and agent Scott Boras) will ask for when they hit the market next winter. For all the talk of baseball’s waning popularity, it’s top stars continue to amass astronomically large contracts.
Kershaw will be 26 on March 19 and has already won the Cy Young twice. Beyond that, he’s thrown more than 200 innings each of the last four seasons, averaging close to 33 starts per season in those years. Again, doing simple math, Kershaw’s new deal pays him a little over $1 million per start should those averages hold over the length of the deal.
Believe it or not, as garish as the numbers look at first glance, the Dodgers aren’t exactly overpaying for Kershaw. He’s a durable, two-time Cy Young Award winner still in his prime with a lifetime 2.60 ERA. He, along with Greg Maddux and Lefty Grove, are the only players in baseball history to lead the league in ERA three straight seasons. There are few things baseball folks can agree upon, but Kershaw being the game’s best starting pitcher is one of those rarities.
Also consider, had the Dodgers allowed Kershaw to go into free agency in 2015, you can assume the Yankees would have gotten involved in the bidding process, driving the price up even more than what they agreed upon Wednesday. Kershaw might have ended up with the trump card in this deal too, with the chance to opt out at age 30 and pick up another huge deal. It’s probably the chip the Dodgers had to concede in order to keep him off the open market this time.
Better yet, the Dodgers are paying the majority of the contract while Kershaw will still be under the age of 30. Call this another benefit of signing a new television contract worth around $8 billion. It’s not every day you can call paying somebody $30 million a year a good deal, but it looks that way for Kershaw and the Dodgers.