Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is entering the final season of his three-year, $93 million deal in 2021, creating some uncertainty for the left-hander’s future with the team. But regardless of what happens with Kershaw and the Dodgers, the future Hall of Famer expects to be on a big league mound again in 2022.
“I have no intentions of hanging them up,” Kershaw said Sunday. “I’m only 32. I feel like I have a few more years left in the tank. If you ask me right now, I really still love playing. I feel healthy right now and I feel like the ball is coming out good. … After this year, we’ll figure things out.”
One thing Kershaw will have to figure out, however, is where he’ll be playing next season.
Kershaw was drafted by the Dodgers with the seventh overall pick in the 2006 MLB Draft and the left-hander is now arguably the best pitcher in franchise history. Because of his dominance and his allegiance to the Dodgers, there’s never been a question about Kershaw wearing a Dodgers uniform.
On Sunday, Kershaw maintained that he loves playing for the Dodgers and would love to stay with the organization that has seen him grow. The Dodgers would almost certainly explore multiple ways to try and bring Kershaw back. While the interest is mutual, negotiations aren’t always that easy.
With other high-priced players currently on the payroll, such as Trevor Bauer and Mookie Betts, Corey Seager also nearing free agency and upcoming raises via arbitration for young stars Walker Buehler and Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers might have to get creative in how they try to bring back Kershaw after this season, though the organization has not been shy about spending money, entering this season at least $40 million over the $210 million Competitive Balance Tax threshold.
As a free agent, there’s also the possibility that Kershaw opts to sign with another team. But entering this season, he’s happy to be a Dodger.
“I don’t know what it looks like, but I love being here. I love the Dodgers. I love everything about this organization,” Kershaw said. “I just feel really fortunate that I’ve gotten to have as many opportunities as I have to win the World Series and now that we finally won one, you don’t take that for granted. I have really enjoyed my time here and will continue to do so.”
A big reason for Kershaw’s joy this spring comes from the fact he no longer has to wear the burden of not being a World Series champion. After losing two World Series and falling short a handful of other times, Kershaw and the Dodgers finally snapped a 32-year drought last October when they beat the Rays.
Motivating himself to win a World Series served as Kershaw’s driving force during the offseason. This offseason, the preparation was the same for Kershaw, but there was a different mentality. But in a positive way, he said.
“I think that, as any player, especially Clayton with his individual track record, to ultimately win a championship as a team, I think that’s something that doesn’t need to be talked about anymore,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “Now he can just look forward to preparing for 2021.
Heading into the ‘21 season, Kershaw will headline a rotation that includes three former Cy Young Award winners, including himself. With Bauer, Kershaw, Buehler, David Price and the young trio of Julio Urías, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin battling it out for the final spot, the Dodgers, on paper, have the best and deepest rotation in the Majors.
Winning the World Series is the expectation once again for the Dodgers. This time, maybe for the last time, with No. 22 leading the way.
“We have to remember that it doesn’t matter that we won last year, but at the same time, remember that our team has a chance to be really special again,” Kershaw said. “And we can’t take that for granted.”