With the additions of Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto on offers lasting 10 and 12 years, respectively, the Dodgers are coming into a brand new period relating to their headlining superstars — to not take something away from Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, each of whom stay at or close to the highest of their respective video games. On Monday, we discovered that the following stage of Dodger baseball can even embody one other acquainted famous person: The New York Put up’s Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman reported that free agent Clayton Kershaw will return to the one group for which he’s ever pitched.
The precise phrases of the deal — which is pending a bodily on Thursday — have but to emerge at this writing, however USA Immediately‘s Bob Nightengale reported that the deal is a “one-year, incentive-laden contract,” whereas The Athletic’s Andy McCullough added that the contract features a participant possibility for 2025. If exercised, that may enable Kershaw to affix Ohtani — who received’t pitch in 2024 after present process reconstructive surgical procedure on his UCL this previous September — within the Dodgers’ rotation.
Participant choices have a tendency to hold benefits relating to Aggressive Stability Tax accounting, a major concern for the Dodgers, who rank second in payroll (each precise and CBT-based) solely to the Mets and are nearly $12 million over the fourth-tier tax threshold of $297 million even earlier than including Kershaw’s wage. For instance, Justin Turner’s two-year, $21.7 million take care of the Purple Sox final yr known as for a base wage of $8.3 million for 2023, then a $13.4 million possibility and $6.7 million buyout. By opting out, Turner made $15 million on a deal whose common annual worth was simply $10.85 million.
Kershaw made $20 million final yr however figures to be assured much less cash for 2024, although bonuses for begins and/or innings might make up a number of the distinction. The timing of the transfer is extra vital than the greenback quantity, as a result of neither the pitcher nor the Dodgers know precisely when the 35-year-old future Corridor of Famer will throw his subsequent aggressive pitch. On November 3, he underwent surgical procedure to restore the glenohumeral ligaments and capsule of his left shoulder, a process that left him “hopeful to return to play sooner or later subsequent summer time” (as he wrote through Instagram) however hardly assured of such a return given the importance of the process. Pulling from what I wrote in relation to the surgical procedure on the time:
The three glenohumeral ligaments (superior, center, and inferior) join the scapula to the humerus. Successfully, they stabilize the ball of the higher arm bone inside the socket of the shoulder blade. The capsule surrounds the joint and is bolstered by the rotator cuff muscular tissues.
…As greatest we will inform from the minimal particulars provided, the surgical procedure doesn’t appear to be instantly associated to his rotator cuff or labrum; such surgical procedures would possibly put him out of motion for a complete season. Capsule surgical procedure isn’t any small matter, nonetheless, so it’s hardly out of the query that he could possibly be sidelined for a full season as nicely, if there are setbacks in his rehab. The excellent news is that doesn’t appear to be the baseline assumption.
Provided that, it’s notable that as a result of the Dodgers open their season by taking part in the Padres in Seoul, South Korea on March 20 and 21, they’re allowed to place gamers on the 60-day injured checklist as of Thursday, February 8. A participant on the 60-day IL doesn’t rely towards the 40-man roster restrict, which means that no corresponding transfer must be made to clear house for Kershaw. Had his return develop into official earlier than that, it could have meant one much less participant the group might defend. As it’s, the group possible received’t make Ryan Brasier’s two-year deal official till Thursday, both, as soon as they transfer Tommy John surgical procedure recipients Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May to the 60-day IL.
That is the third straight offseason during which Kershaw has re-signed with the Dodgers as a free agent, and as with the final two, the Dallas native weighed the opportunity of pitching nearer to house by signing with the Rangers. This time round, they’re defending world champions, however they’re additionally already spending massive cash on three different pitchers rehabbing from main surgical procedures, particularly final yr’s marquee free agent Jacob deGrom, who underwent his second Tommy John process final June and is eying August for his return; midseason acquisition Max Scherzer, who underwent surgical procedure for a herniated disc in mid-December and is concentrating on a midsummer return; and December free agent addition Tyler Mahle, who underwent Tommy John surgical procedure final Might and may return someday this summer time. For them, including a rehabbing Kershaw made much less sense than including a more healthy model would have in years previous, notably with the group affected by the Diamond Sports activities Group’s chapter and expected to have their native tv income diminished by as a lot as 15% for 2024.
Whether or not he pitches past 2024 or not, Kershaw’s return to the fold provides him the possibility to craft a extra dignified exit than he would have if he’d left the Dodgers this winter. In Recreation 1 of final yr’s Division Sequence, he couldn’t get any of his pitches to work reliably, retired simply one of many eight Diamondbacks he confronted whereas being charged with six runs, and was unable to articulate his plans for the long run after the Dodgers have been swept, telling reporters, “I don’t know how one can reply that proper now.”
As previously, the Dodgers revered Kershaw’s need to take the time to weigh his choices, remaining in contact with the group as he went by means of surgical procedure and plotted out his subsequent steps. “His rehab is coming alongside rather well,” said supervisor Dave Roberts on the the group’s fan fest on Saturday. “I feel his thought course of proper now’s dominate the rehab course of and get one thing achieved when it is smart.”
When he was accessible in 2023, Kershaw usually pitched fairly nicely, posting a 2.46 ERA in 131.2 innings and making his tenth NL All-Star group. Left shoulder soreness despatched him to the IL earlier than he might pitch within the All-Star Recreation, nonetheless, and after lacking six weeks, he threw simply 36.1 innings in eight post-injury begins, with the standard of his stuff (as measured by each the Stuff+ and PitchingBot fashions) and his outcomes each noticeably down. Selecting up a desk I made in November:
Clayton Kershaw through Stuff+ and PitchingBot
|2023 Put up-Damage
|2023 Put up-Damage
Stuff+ scores are normalized to a median of 100, PitchingBot scores are normalized to a 20–80 scouting scale.
Scratch the floor beneath his tidy ERA — which was only a hair beneath his profession mark of two.48, and truly decreased after his absence — and also you’ll discover some unsettling indicators. Kershaw’s 4.03 FIP was his highest mark since his 2008 rookie season, his 3.82 xERA his highest of the Statcast period, his 7.6% stroll price his highest since 2010, his 18.5% strikeout-to-walk differential his lowest since ’12, and so forth. Contemplating his post-injury splits (4.61 xERA, 5.40 FIP, plus the pitch high quality metrics above), it isn’t so shocking he bought knocked round within the postseason; certainly, it’s truthful to wonder if he ought to have been on the market in any respect given his situation.
When he does return to motion, Kershaw will be a part of a rotation that’s been radically reshaped because the center of final Might. The Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team caught collectively extra carefully than the quintet that began for the Dodgers from Might 13–17:
A Beginning 5 Scattered to the 4 Winds Since Mid-Might
|Positioned on administrative go away as a part of league home violence investigation (Sept. 6), free agent
|Underwent Tommy John surgical procedure (Sept. 1)
|Traded to Guardians (July 26)
|Underwent shoulder surgical procedure (Nov. 3)
|Underwent Tommy John and flexor tendon surgical procedure (July 18)
That desk doesn’t even embody Lance Lynn, whom the Dodgers acquired from the White Sox on July 30 and who pitched so unimpressively after changing Syndergaard that the group declined his $18 million possibility; he signed a one-year, $10 million take care of the Cardinals.
As for the brand new look, along with Yamamoto, whom the Dodgers signed to a 12-year, $325 million deal final month, the group traded for Tyler Glasnow, who signed a four-year, $110 million extension as a part of the deal, then added James Paxton on a one-year, $7 million deal. Walker Buehler, who underwent late-2022 Tommy John surgical procedure, will return in Might, because the Dodgers need to restrict his workload with an eye fixed in direction of having him accessible in October; Emmet Sheehan, a rookie final yr, will possible take his spot. The one starter from the top of final season who might be returning to his put up instantly is Bobby Miller, contemporary off a stellar rookie marketing campaign.
That’s half a dozen pitchers proper there for what could be a six-man rotation, at the least at occasions. Righties Michael Grove, Gavin Stone, and Kyle Hurt will function depth at Triple-A Oklahoma Metropolis, with lefty Ryan Yarbrough accessible to supply size as a starter or bulk pitcher as nicely. With Might hoping to return sooner or later after the All-Star break, and Kershaw additionally coming again, the Dodgers ought to have the ability to mix-and-match their approach round so many pitchers with damage and workload issues. In the end, they need to have the ability to assemble a stronger playoff rotation than final yr, when Kershaw, Miller, and Lynn mixed for simply 4.2 innings towards the Diamondbacks.
Upon returning, Kershaw will resume his pursuit of three,000 strikeouts, most likely the final main milestone inside his attain. He’s 56 strikeouts away from turning into the twentieth pitcher to succeed in that plateau, and could be just the fourth southpaw to take action after Steve Carlton, Randy Johnson, and CC Sabathia. Former teammate Zack Greinke is 21 strikeouts away from 3,000, and will beat Kershaw to the milestone if he decides to pitch in 2024. Each would be a part of Scherzer and Justin Verlander among the many lively pitchers in that membership, although any approach you slice it, all 4 are headed for Cooperstown, nearly actually on the primary poll. This determination leaves intact Kershaw’s likelihood to develop into simply the seventh post-World Struggle II pitcher to succeed in the Corridor after spending his complete profession with one group, after Whitey Ford (Yankees 1950–67), Sandy Koufax (1955–66), Don Drysdale (1956-69), Bob Gibson (Cardinals 1959–75), Jim Palmer (Orioles 1965–84), and Mariano Rivera (Yankees 1995–2013).
Given their star energy and their depth, the Dodgers didn’t must retain Kershaw in an effort to be heavy favorites to win the Nationwide League West. Whereas it wasn’t important from a aggressive standpoint, it’s nonetheless a welcome little bit of preserved continuity within the face of modifications. With the retirement of Adam Wainwright, the returning Kershaw turns into the longest-tenured participant together with his present group, beating out Salvador Perez, who joined the Royals group 4 months after Kershaw was drafted in 2006. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t imply a lot if Kershaw couldn’t assist the group. By re-signing him, the Dodgers have added a pitcher who, even amid the accidents which have restricted him to a median of 127 innings since 2021, has remained an above-average pitcher, one who’s nonetheless able to producing thrills.