LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw agreed to extend the deadline for the pitcher's contract opt-out until Friday at 4 p.m. ET (1 p.m. PT), presumably to allow the sides to continue talks to rework his current contract.The Dodgers also extended the deadline for a club option on
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw agreed to extend the deadline for the pitcher's contract opt-out until Friday at 4 p.m. ET (1 p.m. PT), presumably to allow the sides to continue talks to rework his current contract.
The Dodgers also extended the deadline for a club option on infielder David Freese until Friday at 4 p.m. ET. The option on Freese is for $6 million or can be bought out for $500,000.
Kershaw, 30, originally signed a seven-year, $215 million contract that included a player option to become a free agent after five seasons. The original deadline for Kershaw's decision was midnight ET on Wednesday.
If he opts out and enters free agency, Kershaw walks away from $65 million guaranteed over the next two seasons. He then could negotiate with any club, including the Dodgers, the club that drafted him in the first round of 2006.
If Kershaw opts out, the Dodgers would be expected to make Kershaw a qualifying offer of $17.9 million Friday, which would provide the team a compensatory Draft pick if Kershaw signs elsewhere.
The opt-out is a perk that always benefits the player. If he outperforms the original salary of the contract, he can cash in again. If he underperforms, he passes and finishes out the remainder of his deal.
Kershaw, however, is in a middle ground that complicates his decision. At age 30, he remains one of the best pitchers in the Majors. But he's also had back and shoulder injuries over the past three years that likely contributed to diminished velocity. He has responded by essentially becoming a breaking-ball pitcher, reliant on his slider.
These injuries weigh on any club considering offering him a lucrative deal, including the Dodgers, in the case of an extension, with a $32.5 million annual salary a very high bar to clear in the current market.
For most of this decade, Kershaw has been the best pitcher of his generation and the greatest Dodgers pitcher since Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, with whom he has developed a close friendship and is often compared to.
Kershaw is a three-time Cy Young Award winner, an MVP and a seven-time All-Star. Despite two disabled-list stints this year, he finished with a 2.73 ERA -- which would have been good for fourth in the National League had he thrown enough innings -- and he went 6-1 in the second half.
But he still hasn't won a championship, and again was unable to rewrite the narrative of his postseason struggles by losing Games 1 and 5 in the Dodgers' World Series loss to the Red Sox. Kershaw is 9-10 in the postseason in his career.
In 11 seasons, Kershaw has the lowest ERA and WHIP in the live-ball era. He is 153-69 with a 2.39 ERA and 1.005 WHIP. He has won five ERA titles, and led the NL in wins and strikeouts three times.
Excluding Kershaw, the Dodgers enter the free-agent season with these starting pitchers under club control: Walker Buehler, Rich Hill, Thomas Stripling, Kenta Maeda, Alex Wood, Julio Urias and Brock Stewart. Hyun-Jin Ryu is already a free agent.
Freese, 35, was acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh on Aug. 31 to provide a veteran right-handed bat and he hit .385 for the Dodgers in 19 games, then went 8-for-22 with two homers and six RBIs in 14 postseason games.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.