It was qualifying-offer season over the weekend for MLB teams. Maybe the most interesting name to not get a qualifying offer, meaning he could sign anywhere without draft-pick compensation, was only the best pitcher of his generation in Clayton Kershaw.
There are obviously a lot of caveats with Kershaw. He missed the playoffs with a second injury to his forearm this season. There doesn’t seem to be a definite sense what exactly his prognosis will be, and his offseason could yet still see surgery if it doesn’t improve. The Dodgers and Kershaw are still free to figure out a deal, for this year and beyond, depending on what his health is. It could still be that Kershaw will miss a portion or a good chunk of the 2022 season, and paying $18.4 million for that isn’t great business.
But if there’s one team that doesn’t have to worry about such a thing it’s the Dodgers.
Even making only 22 starts, Kershaw struck out nearly 30 percent of the hitters he faced, carried nearly a 7-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a flat 3.00 FIP. All of that is worth the qualifying offer.
It’s hard to argue the Dodgers “owe” Kershaw anything, after he just got finished with a seven-year deal that paid him over $30 million per season. Kershaw definitely gave them their money’s worth, what with the 160 ERA+ in that time (100 is average). Kershaw will always have to carry the label of playoff disappointment thanks to Dave Roberts’ belief that all starting pitchers become video game characters in October. The Dodgers certainly missed him this postseason, when they were finding their way through the NLCS as though it were a pitch-black room with only feedback blaring through the speakers.
It’s still most likely that Kershaw will stay in L.A. It’s just the thought that he could possibly end up anywhere else that’s so jarring. It wouldn’t add up. It would shove the baseball world off its axis, just a tiny bit. It just feels like the Dodgers trying to save a buck, when A) They’re the only team that’s never worried about that in the past and B) Kershaw is just about the last player on the planet a team should worry about that with. Especially if the front office knew that Kershaw doesn’t have any plans to go anywhere else.
It’s a cold world.