The last time Clayton Kershaw was approaching free agency, in 2018, I wrote a number of times (summed up here) about the likelihood that he would remain with the Dodgers. Because of his unique history in Los Angeles, there was no other team that could sign him for which he could offer more value.
Kershaw will be a free agent again in two months, but the question hasn’t come up as much, because of the 33-year-old’s more advanced age and injury issues. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that as long as he wants to pitch, it continues to make the most sense for him to stay with the Dodgers. While he shouldn’t command the same salary of his last contract, no contender is better equipped to pay him the dollars he will end up earning.
If Kershaw wanted to play in his home state, the options aren’t appealing. The Texas Rangers aren’t far enough along in their rebuild, and the Houston Astros … though anything’s possible, let’s just say that I don’t think that’s gonna fly.
Put simply, I think Kershaw and his family are comfortable enough with his longtime two-home arrangement between Los Angeles and Texas.
But today, you don’t need to rely merely on my suppositions. None other than A.J. Ellis, Kershaw’s longtime catching consigliere, has weighed in, offering the following assessment to Bill Shaikin of the Times.
Ellis played nine years for the Dodgers, then finished his career with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Miami Marlins and the Padres. Kershaw has played 14 years with the Dodgers, and Ellis does not see Kershaw finishing his career anywhere else.
“No chance,” Ellis said. “He’s a one-uniform guy. He’s going to be a one-uniform guy with an amazing contingent at Cooperstown some day. It’s going to be pretty special for that to happen, and to see that No. 22 retired at Dodger Stadium, and to see a statue someday.”
It’s long been my belief that Kershaw deserves the Kobe Bryant treatment in Los Angeles — that he is such a formidable and dear part of the city’s sports culture and history that it’s worth paying him, even overpaying him, to see his career here all the way to the end. (The prospect of Max Scherzer getting his 3,000th strikeout with the Dodgers, after getting his first 2,931 whiffs with other teams, has only reinforced that.) It’s nice to know that those close to Kershaw feel the same way.
Of course, step one is to get Kershaw back in action for the 2021 stretch run. Hopefully, that’s coming sooner than later in September.