Kershaw Avoids Arbitration With Two Year Deal

According to Dylan Hernandez, the Dodgers have avoided arbitration with Clayton Kershaw by signing him to a two year contract worth a total of $19 million. Jon Heyman notes that it will break down as $8 million in 2012 and $11 million in 2013.

Kershaw was eligible for arbitration for the first time, and had filed a request for $10 million while the Dodgers countered with an offer of $6.5 million. The two parties settled just south of the midpoint between those two figures for 2012, and then guaranteed Kershaw a 38% raise for 2013. That’s a bit of a discount over what he likely would have earned through arbitration had he followed up with another successful season, but he also disposes of some injury risk by taking the guaranteed money now. For context, both Tim Lincecum (2/23) and Cole Hamels (3/20) signed deals that paid them similar amounts when they were first-time arbitration eligible, though both were Super-Twos and were a year further away from free agency when they agreed to sell a few of their arb years.

Essentially, Kershaw offered the Dodgers the potential to save a couple of million on his 2013 salary – and avoid the never-fun arbitration hearings – in exchange for giving him a little more security in case he blows his arm out at some point this year. The Dodgers weren’t able to delay his free agency, or even buy out his final arbitration year, but they get a little bit of cost certainty for the next couple of years. If Kershaw stays healthy, he’s set himself up to get a massive extension in two years or hit free agency in three, all while getting rid of enough risk that he shouldn’t have to worry about his finances for the rest of his life.

While teams have been proactive in trying to get their young stars locked up sooner, this is probably a better path for elite young arms – establish yourself as a star, then sell off a bit of your arbitration earnings to get rid of some risk, and still set yourself up for the monster payday that comes with free agent eligibility. Don’t be surprised if more agents start pushing their young players to follow the Lincecum/Hamels/Kershaw path instead of the Matt Moore career path.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

12 Responses to “Kershaw Avoids Arbitration With Two Year Deal”

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  1. Oliver says:

    Geez, is Kershaw going to hit the market at 26, 27? Good extension all around. Kershaw could be better than Timmy. Is better?

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    • jim says:

      it looks like he took the step last year, that’s for sure

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      For what it is worth, during the previous two seasons Kershaw accumulated 11.5 WAR and Lincecum 9.3.

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      • cal says:

        two cy youngs and a WS ring in one of those years you mentioned. Lincecum is better than Kershaw when you add the years both have been in MLB.

        and the price tag shows it. he didnt get what Lincecum got

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        Lincecum won his Cy Young Awards three and four seasons ago; Kershaw won it last season. World Series wins go to teams not individuals–Lincecum was an important piece to winning, but so was Cody Ross. The question is which one is better moving forward. Kershaw is coming off his best season; Lincecum is coming off his second straight year of decline. Further Kershaw just completed his age 23 season and Lincecum just completed his age 27 season. In other words Kershaw won the Cy Young at the same age Lincecum was a rookie.

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  2. kozilla says:

    I would say he is better right now. He has consistently progressed and last year finally got his walks to a level more appropriate for an elite pitcher.

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  3. hmk says:

    From a fantasy perspective, I’ve got Kershaw as my number 1 pitcher on the board. I like what I’m hearing about Lincecum getting back into shape and losing some weight, hopefully big time timmy Jim will regain his Cy-Young form. As of right now, however, Kershaw is the best bet to be as dominant if not better than he was last season. Verlander is going to find himself in a tough situation with miggy and prince playing defense at the same time, Timmy has yet to prove his fitness isn’t an issue, king felix plays for a so-so team in a tough division. The only person… maybe 2 people… who are in Kershaw’s class (or should I say Kershaw has joined their class, which Timmy was once in) are Doc Halladay and Cliff Lee. Personally, I’m taking Kershaw for the strikeouts, and the fact that he plays in chavez ravine. One day, he could be looking to become baseball’s first $200mil pitcher.

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    • alex says:

      Dude, dude…….dude, Roy Halladay. He is clearly the best, most proven pitcher in the league. Saying Doc is anything but the best is foolish.

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      • hmk says:

        I agree Doc is the best, but he isn’t the perfect pitcher. If kershaw continues to develop at this pace, he may surpass halladay. the biggest advantage kershaw has is strikeout ability. Halladay can wring em up but he relies more on his ability to induce weak contact, which Kershaw also does well. if im taking one pitcher to win a game, its halladay. if im taking the first pitcher in a fantasy draft, im taking kershaw. equal value for whip, era, wins, but more K’s and higher K%. hes the best fantasy pitcher out there.

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  4. alex says:

    Im excited to see what kind of money kershaw get when he becomes a free agent. Him and King Felix will set records.

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  5. Matt says:

    Well last year Kershaw was the best pitcher in the NL, better than Lincecum, Halladay, Lee and Kennedy. He did win the triple crown after all as well as the Cy Young.

    And it’s hard to say Kershaw’s 2011 numbers were a fluke when he’s improved every single year. It’s not like David Price in 2010 where you knew he would regress in 2011.

    As for Halladay being better than Kershaw, people seem to ignore Halladay’s age and just expect the same numbers like he’s gonna put up those numbers for the rest of his life. There will come a time his numbers will decline and I’m not gonna draft him as the number 1 overall starter risking the chance the current year will be the year he starts to decline. Not when I can have Kershaw who can put up Halladay numbers for years to come. And yes I would take Kershaw over Verlander, there’s a better chance Kershaw repeats 2011 than Verlander does.

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