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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Report: Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw nearing record extension

The previous high contract for a pitcher would be Justin Verlander’s seven-year, $180 million extension with the Tigers. According to Rosenthal, that could be dwarfed here. To wit:

Kershaw and the Dodgers discussed a variety of proposals early in the negotiations, including 10 years, $250 million and $12 years, $300 million, sources said.

Kershaw, 25, was 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA (194 ERA+), 0.92 WHIP and 232 strikeouts in 236 innings. He won the Cy Young for the second time in the past three seasons, with the other season resulting in a runner-up finish.

I guess I would make a terrible GM.  Every time I see a big contract proposed/given to a young pitcher I think “Tim Lincecum”.

TDF, situational idiot Posted: January 15, 2014 at 04:29 PM | 122 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Spivey Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:18 PM (#4639837)
If there's anyone that deserves the richest contract ever for a pitcher, it's clearly Kershaw.
   2. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:26 PM (#4639841)
12 years, $300 million

That's just flat-out insane.

Every time I see a big contract proposed/given to a young pitcher I think “Tim Lincecum”.

This.
   3. Tripon Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:28 PM (#4639844)
Tim Lincecum didn't sign a long term deal with the Giants.
   4. mathesond Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:30 PM (#4639846)
7/$215, with an opt-out after 5 years (when he's just 30)

I should have been born a southpaw pitcher, rather than a rightie media planner
   5. God Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:31 PM (#4639851)
If there's anyone that deserves the richest contract ever for a pitcher, it's clearly Kershaw.


This. It's like when A-Rod was a free agent. It's a once in a generation, maybe once in a century kind of thing for a player that good to be a free agent that young. If Kershaw had actually hit the market, I think he could have gotten almost double this, what with the Rangers and Yankees bidding against the Dodgers.

BTW, True Blue LA is reporting that it's a done deal and the terms are $215M/7 years which as a Dodgers fan sounds great to me. Kershaw's already a top 10-15 pitcher all-time, peak-wise, and has never had a hint of any kind of arm trouble. Great deal for the Dodgers, not such a great deal for Casey Close. Kershaw does have an opt-out after 2018, though.
   6. God Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:34 PM (#4639855)
The Lincecum comparisons are way off base IMO. Granted, they are the only two pitchers in history to win multiple Cy Young Awards by age 25. However, Lincecum was a walking red flag from the day he was drafted. His career ended up almost exactly as many predicted -- a period of dominance followed by physical breakdown. Kershaw, on the other hand, has the build you expect to see when you look up "durable pitcher" in the dictionary.
   7. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:37 PM (#4639858)
Lincecum was a walking red flag from the day he was drafted. His career ended up almost exactly as many predicted -- a period of dominance followed by physical breakdown.
When did he break down? I thought he was still in the Giants' rotation
   8. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:37 PM (#4639859)
Kevin Brown.
   9. God Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:40 PM (#4639863)
When did he break down? I thought he was still in the Giants' rotation


So it doesn't count because he's still ambulatory? I thought his steep decline in velocity had been well-documented.
   10. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:41 PM (#4639867)
Darren Dreifort.


No comparison to Kershaw, Lincecum, or Brown, but sometimes I like to mention Darren Dreifort because somebody has to.
   11. God Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:41 PM (#4639868)
Kevin Brown.


The Kevin Brown signing, believe it or not, actually ended up being a net positive for the Dodgers. You could look it up.

At $30.7M per season, Kershaw's contract has the highest AAV of any player in MLB history. And so, so worth it.
   12. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:43 PM (#4639869)
I was just reading up on the Lincecum situation, and if you look at his salaries, you can see that, through what would have been year four of his megadeal, he's cost himself just ("just") $5million. Who knows what kind of deal he'll sign for 2016, but in the long run it seems like turning down the big, guaranteed money hasn't actually hurt him that much, even though he's had one disaster year and one mediocre year since then.
   13. zonk Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:44 PM (#4639872)
7/$215, with an opt-out after 5 years (when he's just 30)


I have a pretty much unvarnished record of hating big contracts - I can't think of a single deal beyond 3 years or over, say, even 80 million - that I've ever lauded. I think that's especially true for pitchers.

However, if my team had the opportunity to sign Kershaw to this deal - I would be upset if they did not.

I understand that he could blow up. I understand the risk. I'm probably being foolish. But I would sign this deal in a heartbeat.
   14. God Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:45 PM (#4639876)
On Brown, the Dodgers paid $76.3 million and ended up with 873 innings of a 2.83 ERA (147 ERA+). That's a pretty decent deal. Plus at the end of that they flipped him for Jeff Weaver and Yhency Brazoban, each of whom they got a little bit of value out of.
   15. TDF, situational idiot Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:48 PM (#4639879)
Tim Lincecum didn't sign a long term deal with the Giants.
That wasn't my point.
The Lincecum comparisons are way off base IMO. Granted, they are the only two pitchers in history to win multiple Cy Young Awards by age 25.
My point is that Lincecum was pretty awesome for 3 seasons, then fell apart. And I hate to disagree with God (insert lightning bolt joke here), but Lincecum hasn't had a "physical breakdown"; he's started 33, 33, and 32 games the past 3 seasons.

If the Giants approached Lincecum with a comparable contract in '10 (it wouldn't have been for nearly as much, as they would have been buying out 3 arb years) and he'd accepted it, people would have applauded them for being forward-thinking.
   16. Willie Mayspedester Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:48 PM (#4639880)
Better deal than the Cano deal.
   17. Lassus Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:49 PM (#4639883)
I understand that he could blow up. I understand the risk. I'm probably being foolish. But I would sign this deal in a heartbeat.

Hell yes.
   18. andrewberg Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:51 PM (#4639886)
Better deal than the Cano deal.


Is it better than the Felix deal?
   19. zonk Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:51 PM (#4639887)
Huh...

For some reason, I thought Kershaw's last 3 years had been better by noticeable margin than Lincecum's 3 year peak.... but I see that I'm wrong.

I'd still sign this deal.
   20. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:52 PM (#4639889)
Very happy with this deal. If any pitcher deserves the money, it's Kershaw.
   21. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:52 PM (#4639891)
This is an atrocious contract. A two-year player option for years 6 and 7 at $30 million per year for a pitcher may be the worst idea I have ever heard of.

I'd have let him play through his last arb year and then let him walk if this is what he required to re-sign.
   22. TDF, situational idiot Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:54 PM (#4639895)
On the other hand, the Dodgers are acting as if they have all of the money in the world, and Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball right now. But man. I just can't see counting on 7 healthy, great seasons (Twitter says 7/$215M) from any pitcher.
   23. Swedish Chef Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:56 PM (#4639898)
A two-year player option for years 6 and 7 at $30 million per year for a pitcher may be the worst idea I have ever heard of.

Sabathia got an opt-out three years into the deal.
   24. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:56 PM (#4639899)
You're not. You're counting on five healthy, great seasons, after which you have to sign him to another mega-contract or let him walk. If his arm blows up then you're on the hook for seven. The Dodgers lose big either way.

Sabathia got an opt-out three years into the deal.


And that was also a horrible idea.
   25. God Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:57 PM (#4639900)
I just can't see counting on 7 healthy, great seasons (Twitter says 7/$215M) from any pitcher.

Neither can I, even though Kershaw's been both healthy and great for 5 seasons in a row now. But where does it say that all 7 seasons have to be healthy and great for the Dodgers to get their money's worth out of this deal?
   26. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: January 15, 2014 at 06:59 PM (#4639904)
If Kershaw stays healthy it's a 5/150 contract, which is going to require more than three years of Clayton Kershaw to cover. And the actual risk is much, much higher than that.

Basically either he stays healthy for the entire five years, in which case the Dodgers are pretty happy with their $150 million investment, or he breaks down (as most pitchers do; this is the most likely scenario) and the contract is a catastrophe that puts them on the hook for an extra $60 million over an extra two years on top of whatever years out of the first five that are lost.

It's a pretty bad gamble. I understand it's the Dodgers and they have sufficient money that a $30 million per year black hole isn't going to ruin them, but a bad gamble is still a bad gamble.

Others will disagree but I would never give a pitcher a player option (when did we start calling player options "opt-outs" anyway?) I would have told Kershaw he can have 5/150 if he wants it or he can have 7/215 if he wants it, but he can't have it both ways. If he balks and walks, so be it.
   27. God Posted: January 15, 2014 at 07:03 PM (#4639908)
If his arm blows up then you're on the hook for seven.

See, I just don't get this. Medically, we've reached the point where there's almost no such thing as a guy's arm blowing up. Pitchers, especially ones as good and young as Kershaw, come back from catastrophic injuries now. You might lose him for a year to Tommy John.
   28. zonk Posted: January 15, 2014 at 07:04 PM (#4639911)
I gotta be honest, I'm just coming around to the idea that salary inflation hasn't found its plateau yet...

We're fretting over what 30 million means in the context 5 years from now (and potentially, worst case scenario -- what it means to totally waste 30 million 6 and 7 years from now).

30 million in 2019 might very well buy you a Matt Garza.
   29. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: January 15, 2014 at 07:05 PM (#4639913)
PASTE/Zeth, what do you believe to be a reasonable deal for Kershaw?
   30. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: January 15, 2014 at 07:05 PM (#4639914)
An elbow "blowing up" usually means a lost 14 months or so, yes. A shoulder "blowing up" still usually means your career is over. Ask Brandon Webb or Roy Halladay. And God knows what went wrong with Tim Lincecum.

Gold Star: I ninjaedited my last post to answer your question. It's the player option I hate.
   31. Willie Mayspedester Posted: January 15, 2014 at 07:06 PM (#4639915)
Is it better than the Felix deal?


Hmm... I'd say pretty even. The Dodgers have enough money where the extra 6 million a year is a drop in the bucket it seems. In a neutral environment I'd say the Felix contract is a little better.
   32. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: January 15, 2014 at 07:09 PM (#4639917)
Whatever happened to mutual options?
   33. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: January 15, 2014 at 07:10 PM (#4639919)
Just was pointed out on Twitter that if Kershaw stays all 7 years, in the last 2 seasons he'll have a full no-trade clause due to his 10/5 rights.
   34. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: January 15, 2014 at 07:12 PM (#4639922)
Gold Star: That's not really a big deal since the only scenario in which he's still there for years 6 and 7 on that contract is where he wouldn't be tradeable anyway.
   35. God Posted: January 15, 2014 at 07:12 PM (#4639923)
Zeth, I take it from your comments that it's not Kershaw in particular but pitcher contracts in general you're skittish of. In practical terms, then, if you were a GM you would never do what it takes to sign a good pitcher? Even if you were the biggest payroll team in MLB, your entire starting rotation, in perpetuity, would consist only of homegrown guys in their first 5 years or reclamation projects? That philosophy certainly avoids risk; one of the risks it avoids is the risk of winning a pennant.
   36. God Posted: January 15, 2014 at 07:13 PM (#4639924)
I thought 10/5 rights got bargained away in the last CBA. Guess I dreamed that one up.
   37. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 15, 2014 at 07:16 PM (#4639925)
The problem with this type of deal for pitchers is that there seldom seems to be any middle ground. If Kershaw stays healthy, he's probably worth it (by the standards of 2014-awash-in-dough-MLB); if he doesn't, the remainder of the deal becomes an albatross.

Presumably, this take the Dodgers out of the Tanaka hunt, no?
   38. God Posted: January 15, 2014 at 07:22 PM (#4639930)
I don't think it changes the Dodgers' position in the Tanaka hunt. LA was always going to sign Kershaw. So either they're still in the Tanaka hunt, or they were never really in it. (I lean toward the latter.)
   39. zonk Posted: January 15, 2014 at 07:24 PM (#4639931)
Off the top of my head for mega deals, it seems like -- quite contrary to what you'd think - the track record is actually better for pitchers than hitters....

I mean, as others have pointed out -- the Kevin Brown deal worked out pretty well for the Dodgers, actually. Last year doesn't bode well for the Sabathia deal, but you've got to be pretty OK with that deal so far, no?

The Hampton deal was obviously debacle - but that was a mistake from the get-go because Hampton was in no way at the level of "highest paid pitcher".

I suppose you could say the dividing line is "best available" vs. "truly best at his position".... but then, what other megadeals worked out well for hitters? Maybe the original A-Rod deal on pure value.

The Soriano deal? Nope... Would you want the Pujols contract?

I'm just musing, so maybe I'm wrong and forgetting a lot...
   40. jdennis Posted: January 15, 2014 at 07:35 PM (#4639935)
He so would have taken 28 per
   41. God Posted: January 15, 2014 at 07:36 PM (#4639936)
It does seem like the best megadeals in baseball history were ones given to pitchers. Maddux with the Braves, Johnson with the Dbacks, Pedro with the Red Sox come to mind. Kershaw is more comparable to those guys than he is to Kevin Brown or whoever.
   42. God Posted: January 15, 2014 at 07:44 PM (#4639943)
Okay, so let's look at this another way: Is this deal better or worse for the Dodgers than the 10/$300M deal Kershaw reportedly turned down last year?
   43. Walt Davis Posted: January 15, 2014 at 07:46 PM (#4639944)
According to b-r (which is sometimes a bit funny on contract $s), the highest paid player in the NL for the last 4 years has been Johan Santana. From 99-02, the highest-paid was Brown which, as noted, the Dodgers got out of at the right time. The AL has never been silly enough to make a pitcher their highest-paid ... although that probably depends on how you price those crazy Clemens contracts.

From 2010-13, Santana produced 15 WAR. From 99-02, Brown produced 16 WAR (very solid) and 23 WAR over the life of the contract (not bad). Of course 23 WAR in this market is, at the highest $/WAR estimate I've seen, only $161 M.

Pitchers with 1000 IP from 21-25 and how they did from 26-32 ...

First, Kershaw is at the top of the saved list by ERA+ and the names that follow him are not scary -- Seaver, Clemens, Blyelven, Felix (so far). But then they start to get a little scary -- Saberhagen, McDowell, Stieb, Tanana, Chance. But those are guys who are 25-30 ERA+ points behind him.

There are 36 qualifiers not counting Kershaw. Looking at them from 26-32:

50+ WAR: Maddux, Seaver
40+: Clemens
30 (exactly): Stieb, Sutton
25-29: Blue, Hunter, Blyleven
20 give or take: Saberhagen, McDowell, Eck

Of the 36, 20 produced at least 10 WAR with Felix (good) and Cain (ummm) still working on it.

On the bright side, among the pitchers in Kershaw's neighborhood from 21-25, not really any horror stories. Even guys like Saberhagen and McDowell made it to 20 WAR. Tanana and Chance are scary but Tanana had already blown out his arm by 25 and both of them put up 14 WAR anyway, similar to Santana. As "reasonable worst-case" scenarios go, that ain't bad.

But then to be worth this contract, he's got to get to at least 30 WAR, maybe 35. Obviously doable and probably the only pitcher you might bet on to do it. But it's still a big ask. He's got to be in the top 5 of the expansion era from 26-32 to break even.

Take Felix. At 26-27 he has 10 WAR which is great but barely keeping pace with what Kershaw needs to do. Or Cain who's got 8 WAR from 26-28. Of course Kershaw was better than both those guys from 21-25 so we'd expect him to do better.

I just don't like it. I don't think it's ever a good idea to make a pitcher the highest-paid -- they just aren't worth more than a stud position player and the risk is so much higher. I'm not sure I like giving him that opt-out -- if he does pull a Seaver/Maddux level of production, he's gonna opt out (or extend at an even higher price); if he gets hurt, you're stuck. I don't see an upside in the opt out for the team and I think paying a guy $31 M a year ought to buy you some consideration. :-)

By the way, those are all bWAR, maybe he looks even better by fWAR.

As to Cano -- interesting. At a 5% discount, Cano's contract comes in at $185 and Kershaw's at $179. The likely outcomes are probably also pretty similar. Despite their reputation, pretty much every elite 2B put up at least 20 WAR in the ages Cano is signed for. A fair number reached 30 and I think Morgan reached 40. (Of course it's a very small sample of players). I guesstimate Cano at 27-28 WAR but with a low collapse/injury risk.

I suppose Kershaw's mean projection is higher but the variance will be higher too, mainly due to serious injury risk and somewhat to the variability of pitchers (on both the up and downside). Cano's the guy you'd love to have given an opt-out -- likely, the strong majority of the value he produces will come in the first 3-5 years of his contract, but nobody but ARod is silly enough to opt out of a mega contract in his mid-30s.

I'll take Kershaw on the grounds that he could be one of the true all-time greats while Cano could be just one of the all-time greats ... for a 2B. If you're gonna offer "silly" contracts, you offer them to guys who could be all-time greats.

Yes, I'm leaving aside "it's the Dodgers, they can afford it or they don't care or they profit more from the extra wins."
   44. Walt Davis Posted: January 15, 2014 at 07:55 PM (#4639949)
Okay, so let's look at this another way: Is this deal better or worse for the Dodgers than the 10/$300M deal Kershaw reportedly turned down last year?

Better and it doesn't seem close. The NPV on 10/$300 is about $230 so $50 M more, that's a lot. If he pitches well enough to be worth the megabucks, he probably opts out (or extends via opt-out threat) and you're off the hook for all of the remaining money. (Did the 10/$300 have an opt out?) Obviously the risk of time/talent lost to injury is greater for 10 years than for 7. Looks like a no-brainer to me.

As from the above, in NPV terms 7/$217 is about the same as 10/$240 -- that will obviously shift around a bit depending on discount rate but not a lot. So, really, this is much better for the Dodgers than 10/$300. It could work out in Kershaw's favor if either he pitches exceptionally well (opt-out/extension for even bigger money) and/or salaries continue to inflate at high rates (reduced Kershaw can get $30 M a year from 33 on anyway).

I'll also add that in a world where Lincecum can get 2/$34, presumably based more on his FIP than his results, $30 M for Kershaw doesn't seem crazy at all.
   45. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: January 15, 2014 at 08:11 PM (#4639956)
Presumably, this take the Dodgers out of the Tanaka hunt, no?

You Yankee fans are cute, thinking your team could outbid Kasten, Magic, and co.

Anyway, I'm glad to see this deal done. I would have liked for Kershaw to commit to more than five years for the Dodgers (which is really just four additional), but we can come back to this in 2019.
   46. God Posted: January 15, 2014 at 08:36 PM (#4639961)
One thing this deal does is virtually guarantee Kershaw will go into the Hall of Fame as a Dodger (unless he gets hit by a bus, obv). That's really important to the franchise, considering the last two times they developed a no-doubt HOFer (Piazza & Pedro), they traded them away and pissed them off in the process. It really pains the Dodgers right now that Piazza, who had more value with the Dodgers than the Mets, is lobbying to go into the HOF as a Met. For a team that prides itself on tradition like that, they haven't had a guy on the team who was inducted into the HOF as a Dodger since Don Sutton left after 1980. That's a long stretch that ends today.

This signing is still going to be paying dividends for the Dodgers 50 years from now. They take their tradition seriously and so do their fans.
   47. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: January 15, 2014 at 09:20 PM (#4639975)
One thing this deal does is virtually guarantee Kershaw will go into the Hall of Fame as a Dodger (unless he gets hit by a bus, obv).


I hate to be the guy that pisses in everyone's Cheerios but it guarantees no such thing. What cap is Johan Santana going to have on his plaque?
   48. Nasty Nate Posted: January 15, 2014 at 09:27 PM (#4639978)
This type of contact size is why I think 8/160 or 9/180 is what Tanaka signs for.
   49. AndrewJ Posted: January 15, 2014 at 09:28 PM (#4639979)
In 1966 Sandy Koufax held out for $125,000 a year.

In 2014 Clayton Kershaw will make that much every inning.

That is all.

   50. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: January 15, 2014 at 09:34 PM (#4639982)
Nice job by the Dodgers. What's the point of having all the money if you can't keep a guy like this?
   51. valuearbitrageur Posted: January 15, 2014 at 09:42 PM (#4639989)
Kershaw's already a top 10-15 pitcher all-time, peak-wise


He's younger than Brandon Webb, and has had one better season, but same career up to Brandons injury. I have to think way more than 15 others have as well.

The Dodgers will give Kershaw $217m if he doesn't get hurt, and another $70M if he does. Does that make sense?

This deal needs to be measured against the value the Dodgers already had, which was substantial. This deal does not appear to add to it, given the risks.
   52. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2014 at 09:43 PM (#4639990)
This type of contact size is why I think 8/160 or 9/180 is what Tanaka signs for.

I don't think Tanaka will want more than 6 years. He's going to want a 2nd bite at the FA apple if he's very good.
   53. Nasty Nate Posted: January 15, 2014 at 09:56 PM (#4639999)
This type of contact size is why I think 8/160 or 9/180 is what Tanaka signs for.


I don't think Tanaka will want more than 6 years. He's going to want a 2nd bite at the FA apple if he's very good.


He will be able to get a second bite after 8 or 9 years. He's only 25 now.
   54. Nasty Nate Posted: January 15, 2014 at 09:58 PM (#4640002)

The Dodgers will give Kershaw $217m if he doesn't get hurt, and another $70M if he does. Does that make sense?


What do you mean by this?
   55. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: January 15, 2014 at 10:02 PM (#4640003)
If he doesn't get hurt, he will opt out of the last two years. If he does get hurt, he will want to get paid for the last two years.
   56. Nasty Nate Posted: January 15, 2014 at 10:06 PM (#4640005)
But that $70m is part of the $217m, right?
   57. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: January 15, 2014 at 10:10 PM (#4640006)
[56] Yes, that is correct. So it's only $147m if he performs to expectations.
   58. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: January 15, 2014 at 10:10 PM (#4640007)
Oh, you're right. The Dodgers will give Kershaw $150m if he doesn't get hurt, and another $65m if he does.
   59. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: January 15, 2014 at 10:11 PM (#4640008)
He will be able to get a second bite after 8 or 9 years. He's only 25 now.


Yes, but a 5 year deal means he's a free agent after his 30-year-old season -- so he'll be in line for another big contract. 9 years and it's after his age-34 season, and if he gets something long-term, it won't be for nearly what he would have gotten at 30.
   60. Nasty Nate Posted: January 15, 2014 at 10:17 PM (#4640014)

Yes, but a 5 year deal means he's a free agent after his 30-year-old season -- so he'll be in line for another big contract. 9 years and it's after his age-34 season, and if he gets something long-term, it won't be for nearly what he would have gotten at 30.


No, but it wouldn't need to be, because he would be paid for the 30-34 years under the first contract. If he wants to bet on himself and if the signing team would raise the AAV, he will take a 5-6 year deal. But in reality, that seems very rare, and I don't think it will happen in this case - except in the form of an opt-out clause.
   61. Danny Posted: January 15, 2014 at 10:28 PM (#4640018)
This. It's like when A-Rod was a free agent. It's a once in a generation, maybe once in a century kind of thing for a player that good to be a free agent that young. If Kershaw had actually hit the market, I think he could have gotten almost double this, what with the Rangers and Yankees bidding against the Dodgers.

Kershaw's already a top 10-15 pitcher all-time, peak-wise

One thing this deal does is virtually guarantee Kershaw will go into the Hall of Fame as a Dodger (unless he gets hit by a bus, obv).

These are all crazy statements.
   62. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: January 15, 2014 at 10:38 PM (#4640023)
I would expect Tanaka to also insist upon a player option. Something like a 5-year contract plus a 3-year player option all at $25 million per is about what I'd expect him to get.

I'd be more amenable to a vesting option were I in a GM's shoes, but a player option for a pitcher would be anathema. But that's easy for me to say; for a player like Kershaw a vesting option that depends upon him pitching 180 innings or whatever in Year 5 is functionally the same thing as a team option. It would make no sense for him to agree to.
   63. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: January 15, 2014 at 10:47 PM (#4640028)
Of course this sets a nice bar for Trout. If he keeps producing, say 7-8 War over the next 2 years, what in heck is he going to command eventually.
   64. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 15, 2014 at 10:56 PM (#4640033)
I'm just musing, so maybe I'm wrong and forgetting a lot...

Jeter's 10 year/$189M deal worked out pretty well for both parties.
   65. Select Storage Device Posted: January 15, 2014 at 11:03 PM (#4640034)
These are all crazy statements.


Yup!

Kershaw is a wonderful pitcher. I think this deal might end up pretty good for the Dodgers, but people throwing around the Kevin Brown comps aren't insane. Top 10-15 all-time (re: peak)? "Looks like an all-time great." -- ?

I had to stop and think when a co-worker called him simply the best pitcher in baseball. Let's not lose our minds.

   66. God Posted: January 15, 2014 at 11:16 PM (#4640039)
You guys seriously think Kershaw doesn't already have a Top 15 all-time peak? Honestly, I didn't think that would be a very controversial statement. Who are your 15 guys that had better peaks?
   67. Spivey Posted: January 15, 2014 at 11:19 PM (#4640041)
Kevin Brown comps aren't insane. He's a guy with a reasonable case for the HOF. It's also not insane to suggest that Kershaw - while he has a bunch of work to do - is at least on a trajectory to be an all-time great. It would not shock me if he goes down as one of the top several pitchers of the century. He's got to have things go right - but he doesn't have to get better. He just needs to stay healthy and performing at the level he's shown the last 3-4 years.
   68. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: January 15, 2014 at 11:24 PM (#4640042)
So in 2014 he's being paid $22m, but $18m of that is a signing bonus. Does that mean anything in terms of the luxury tax?
   69. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: January 15, 2014 at 11:33 PM (#4640049)
I believe that the luxury tax charge is just a straight calculation of total contract divided by number of years, period.
   70. Sonic Youk Posted: January 15, 2014 at 11:44 PM (#4640053)
Seems pretty good to me. The only unprecedented part of this deal is the money, which is fine since the dodgers are filthy rich and he's the best pitcher in baseball. Other pitchers have signed 7 year deals, that's nothing new. And in this case the dude is 25. I'd be pretty okay with my team signing this deal if he hit FA.
   71. SoSH U at work Posted: January 15, 2014 at 11:47 PM (#4640055)
It's also not insane to suggest that Kershaw - while he has a bunch of work to do - is at least on a trajectory to be an all-time great.


He has the lowest career ERA of any starting pitcher who has debuted in the last 100 years.* I know there are issues with that particular fact (for instance, other guys had lower ERAs through a similar number of innings or seasons or more). I still think it's pretty damn cool.

* Of the 55 guys ahead of him on the list, the starting pitcher with the most recent debut was Babe Ruth.
   72. GregD Posted: January 15, 2014 at 11:50 PM (#4640056)
I like the deal but I wouldn't put Kershaw's peak, thus far, anywhere near the top 15. Just working backwards, Kershaw seems to me fighting to stay even with: Halladay, Lincecum, Verlander, Santana, Hershiser, Kevin Brown, Saberhagen, Stieb, Niekro, Felix and is clearly behind Big Unit, Clemens, Maddux, Gooden, Carlton, Seaver, Fergie Jenkins so you can get to 15 guys equivalent or better before you even get beyond people who pitched deep into the 80s, much less all-time, and without pushing any really close cases. But he's a fine pitcher and if you are gonna take a chance, why not him? And if you're not going to take a chance, what's the point of being the Dodgers?
   73. SABRJoe Posted: January 15, 2014 at 11:58 PM (#4640058)
Who are your 15 guys that had better peaks?

Good article HERE from David Schoenfield written last March detailing the best five-year pitching peaks based on WAR. Kershaw's 2009-2013 30.8 would put him right about 20th all-time.
   74. Pleasant Nate (Upgraded from 'Nate') Posted: January 16, 2014 at 12:02 AM (#4640059)
Kershaw has 20.5 bWAR over the last 3 years. Verlander, Santana, and Halladay all have better 3-year peaks, and that's just the active guys (from last year). Cliff Lee is at 20.4. Schilling, Clemens, Maddux, Brown, Randy, Appier (!), and Pedro all beat that in the 90/00s. Top 15 is too high. Really good of course, but not Top 15.
   75. cardsfanboy Posted: January 16, 2014 at 12:06 AM (#4640060)
You guys seriously think Kershaw doesn't already have a Top 15 all-time peak? Honestly, I didn't think that would be a very controversial statement. Who are your 15 guys that had better peaks?

Off the top of my head I would go with
(Kershaw era- 69/76/62/67/51)
1. Pedro
2. Koufax(70/62/53/63/53)(Just listing this one because era+ underrates Koufax)
3. Maddux
4. Randy
5. Schilling
6. Clemens
7. Feller
8. Walter Johnson
9. Feller
10. Sabathia
11. Santana
12. Brown
13. Mathewson
14. Newhouser
15. Alexander.
   76. greenback calls it soccer Posted: January 16, 2014 at 12:09 AM (#4640062)
David Lynch made a television series about Bob Feller's career.
   77. SABRJoe Posted: January 16, 2014 at 12:10 AM (#4640063)
[76] Hmph...I thought that was about Morganna Roberts.
   78. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 16, 2014 at 12:12 AM (#4640064)
You guys seriously think Kershaw doesn't already have a Top 15 all-time peak? Honestly, I didn't think that would be a very controversial statement. Who are your 15 guys that had better peaks?

Just how strictly are you timelining? Because that will affect the answer a lot.

Kershaw has averaged 6.5 WAR over his last 4 seasons. There are over 50 pitchers in baseball history who averaged at least 6.5 WAR over their best seven. Now, there are plenty of 19th-century guys on that list, but...

W. Johnson, Young, Alexander, Mathewson, Clemens, Grove, R. Johnson, Walsh, Gibson, Seaver, Pedro, Maddux, Roberts, Carlton, Perry, Marichal, Jenkins, Feller, Spahn, Blyleven, Halladay, Waddell, Vance, Schilling, Bunning, Palmer, Hubbell, Koufax

all fall into that group. That's 28 pitchers; I suspect at least 20 of them have peaks that are better than Kershaw's by just about any standard that isn't timelined so heavily as to conclude that at least 12 of the top 15 came within the last 40-50 years. And that's leaving out guys who averaged more than 6.5 over 4-year peaks but burned out before reaching 7 at that level.

Picking a recent guy from relatively close to the bottom of the list: By WAR, Halladay has three seasons better than Kershaw's best one to date. If you think that overvalues his innings advantage, you can use WAA instead, which cuts it down to two seasons better than Kershaw's best. I have a hard time seeing Kershaw with a better peak that Halladay so far, and I have a hard time seeing Halladay as having anything like a top-15 pitching peak, so...
   79. donlock Posted: January 16, 2014 at 12:51 AM (#4640076)
Don't forget Kershaw has won 20 games each of the last two years so he's worth a big salary. What? I mean last year. No? Ever? 2011. Oh, whew. 16 wins last year, 14 the year before. Hmmm...
   80. Walt Davis Posted: January 16, 2014 at 01:26 AM (#4640087)
What makes Kershaw so all-time-great-potentially is the age at which he's doing this.

From 1920 on, ages 21-25, at least 1000 IP -- his 155 ERA+ is 2nd to only Hal Newhouser's wartime 164. He beats Seaver and Clemens by 14 points.

P-I now seems to include the opponents slash line and Kershaw's 573 easily leads the way. Seaver is at 610, Clemens at 615, Felix at 660, McDowell at 588 is close.

If we do the same thing by bWAR, he drops to a tie for third. Blyleven beats him by 5 WAR but in nearly 400 more IP -- different usage era. Newhouser is 2nd (again, war time) and Saberhagen ties him in roughly the same number of IP. Roberts and Clemens are just behind. He's got Seaver by 5 WAR in roughly the same number of IP. Among more strict contemporaries, he's got Felix by 6 wins and Cain by 8, again roughly equal IP.

Dice it up by K/BB and he's third, behind Saberhagen and Clemens, ahead of Tanana, Blyleven, Seaver and Felix.

He's got a real argument for best age 21-25 pitcher of the post-deadball era ... with a nod to Gooden who was pretty useful at age 20. Gooden from 19-23 essentially ties Kershaw.

The Felix contract it turns out is a nearly perfect comp. Felix got a 7/$175 contract, $25 per, covering 2013-19.

FH 08-12: 1155 IP, 137 ERA+, 3.11 K/BB, 1 CYA, 25.5 WAR
CK 09-13: 1072 IP, 155 ERA+, 3.24 K/BB, 2 CYA, 30.8 WAR

So 1 more WAR per year at a cost of $6 M more per year -- bingo.

If you end up on lists with Seaver, Clemens and Blyleven -- and usually ahead of them -- people will start to talk all-time-greatness. The guy is already 12th all-time in CYA shares. Granted, he's right in-between Saberhagen and Santana to remind us that the best-laid plans don't always work out.

That said it's true that his peak is hardly all-time great. Looking at the next age range of 26-30, his peak would come in the top 13, in a group with Santana and Verlander. Of course up near the top we see Seaver and Clemens again. 26-30 was not so kind to Blyleven.

The opt-out would kick in around there and he doesn't need 30 WAR to make it work. 25 WAR in 5 years should be more than enough -- that group includes Langston, Oswalt, Finley, Colon, Carlton, Haren, Mussina. Barring injury, aren't we all pretty confident he's at least as good as those guys? Even at 21 WAR he's about keeping pace with the contract and that's Cone, Welch, Lolich, Blue (not his big years), Stieb, Richard and even Radke.

So really, it's "only" the injury risk. I don't know how big that risk is but as I discussed in the earlier post even Tanana and other "disasters" made it to 14 WAR, most made it to 20 from 26-32. Even McDowell compiled enough value from 26-28 (19 WAR) before blowing his arm out that this wouldn't be a disaster. Even Jim Maloney managed 15 WAR from 26-30, including one pretty good season after probably blowing out his arm (K/9 from the 7s to 5.1).

Of course that may be putting too much on his age 21-25 success. Kerry Wood was a darn good pitcher from 21-25 -- not as good as Kershaw and he blew out his arm at 22. But he seemed fully recovered by the time he was entering his age 26 season and it was a good one but that was pretty much it. So let's expand the search a bit to include guys who were good from 23-25.

Appier is a new name. From 23-25, Kevin Appier was pretty much as good as Kershaw in WAR/IP terms. And from 26-29, Appier put up 21 WAR. Then he got hurt but he still managed to take on 4 WAR from 30-32. Maloney we've discussed. I assume Dodger fans would be satisfied with Pedro's age 26-30. Another seemingly cautionary tale in Zambrano -- and even he made it to 14 WAR from 26-30.

Folks are bringing up Webb. He didn't pitch in the majors at 21-23 but he was darn good at 24-25. From 26-29 he put up 24 WAR. Halladay was all over the place 21-25 but at ages 22, 24 and 25 he put up 13 WAR in about 500 IP so that's Kershaw-esque too. From 26-30 he put up 25 WAR ... then he got better.

I expected many of his comps to be scarier but they just aren't. Usually being heavily used when you're young doesn't bode well. But he has survived through age 25 without an injury and being durable (by the standards of the day) and dominant suggests the risk here is not as dramatic as we might think. Maybe he gets hurt right away ... and becomes Tanana ... a vast overpay on the Dodgers' part but still 15 WAR. It's probably more likely that, like Webb, Appier, Halladay, he's on 20-25 WAR after just the first 3-4 years of this contract and the thing is already into "not great but not bad" territory.

Or maybe I've forgotten some comps. And age does work differently for pitchers. OK, if you look at just ages 24-25 you start to see some scary ones. Appier is actually the leader on this list (expansion). Greinke is higher than Kershaw and he's had just 12 WAR from 26-29. McLain (yikes!) and Lincecum (yikes!). Pettitte had as many WAR as Kershaw from 24-25 -- that's not a cautionary tale I'm just flabbergasted (this might be a case where fWAR would be a more accurate description). But there's Clemens, Stieb, Saberhagen, Seaver, Pedro again so there's still plenty of promise. How much more confidence we should have that Kershaw has been doing this for 5 years instead of just two (McLain, Lincecum) is hard to say.

I still don't like it but the downside risk is a lot less than I was expecting.

   81. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: January 16, 2014 at 01:53 AM (#4640092)
Don't forget Kershaw has won 20 games each of the last two years so he's worth a big salary. What? I mean last year. No? Ever? 2011. Oh, whew. 16 wins last year, 14 the year before. Hmmm...


2012 16 starts with 3 runs of support or fewer
2013 18 starts with 3 runs of support or fewer

That's totally Kershaw's fault.
   82. Walt Davis Posted: January 16, 2014 at 04:22 AM (#4640108)
Kershaw's wins

9 IP, 0 R
7 IP, 0 R
8 IP, 0 R
8.2 IP, 0 R
9 IP, 1 R
8 IP, 2 R
9 IP, 0 R
8 IP, 1 R
7 IP, 2 R
8 IP, 1 R
8 IP, 2 R, 1 ER
8 IP, 0 R
8 IP, 0 R
5 IP, 5 R
7 IP, 0 R
6 IP, 0 R

If he gave up a run, he didn't win.
   83. valuearbitrageur Posted: January 16, 2014 at 04:35 AM (#4640110)
If he gave up a run, he didn't win.


In other words, he pitches like he doesn't care what the score is?

Time to bring in coach J Morris to teach this punk about real pitching.
   84. SABRJoe Posted: January 16, 2014 at 04:36 AM (#4640111)
Kershaw also only has a career high of 10 RBI in a season...no way worth all that money.
   85. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: January 16, 2014 at 07:26 AM (#4640116)
I too am no a huge fan of $30 mil AAV, but geez if you've got to take a punt at it, he's your guy.
Going to see him pitch in Sydney in a couple of months...
   86. staring out the window and waiting for fenderbelly Posted: January 16, 2014 at 08:35 AM (#4640120)
I wish that I was way better at throwing a baseball.
   87. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 16, 2014 at 08:37 AM (#4640122)
Dice it up by K/BB and he's third, behind Saberhagen and Clemens, ahead of Tanana, Blyleven, Seaver and Felix.

Well, if you're discounting '70s peaks for volume due to era differences, you have to discount current-day peaks on K/BB. The league average K/BB in the NL last year was 2.49; in Blyleven's age-25 season (the '76 AL), it was 1.49.
   88. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: January 16, 2014 at 09:56 AM (#4640140)
16-9 with a 1.83 ERA (194 ERA+)

Which makes me wonder...how the hell did he lose nine games?

Here's a list of qualifying pitchers within 10 points of Kershaw's ERA+, ranked by W/L%...Kershaw ranks 36th out of 43. (Pity poor Ed Walsh and Ed Siever...they couldn't even get winning records! Talk about non-support!)

The averages for the 43 pitchers: 20-8, 192 ERA+, 31 GS, 258.2 IP.

Thing is, though, some of these guys made quite a few relief appearances, an average of 4.3 per season. (Lefty Grove had 22 CG and 17 GF in 1930!) So if limit ourselves to the 23 pitchers on the list with less than 3 relief appearances, we get these averages:

19-7, 191 ERA+, 31 GS, 239 IP...much more in line with Kershaw's numbers. But he was still kinda unlucky.

   89. TDF, situational idiot Posted: January 16, 2014 at 10:18 AM (#4640153)
I was looking at pitchers with the most bWAR thru age-25; most of the ones ahead of Kershaw are HOFers, with 2 glaring counter-examples (Gooden doesn't count, because his downfall was likely caused as much by the drugs as anything else): Saberhagen and Tanana.

Anyway,
The Lincecum comparisons are way off base IMO. Granted, they are the only two pitchers in history to win multiple Cy Young Awards by age 25.
Saberhagen, like Kershaw, won his 2nd CYA as a 25 year old. He only pitched another 1200 innings the rest of his career.
   90. Nasty Nate Posted: January 16, 2014 at 10:33 AM (#4640165)
I'm reading that the deal is slightly back loaded so his decision will be opt out or $65m/2.
   91. Accent Shallow Posted: January 16, 2014 at 11:26 AM (#4640214)

16-9 with a 1.83 ERA (194 ERA+)

Which makes me wonder...how the hell did he lose nine games?

Here's a list of qualifying pitchers within 10 points of Kershaw's ERA+, ranked by W/L%...Kershaw ranks 36th out of 43. (Pity poor Ed Walsh and Ed Siever...they couldn't even get winning records! Talk about non-support!)

The averages for the 43 pitchers: 20-8, 192 ERA+, 31 GS, 258.2 IP.

Thing is, though, some of these guys made quite a few relief appearances, an average of 4.3 per season. (Lefty Grove had 22 CG and 17 GF in 1930!) So if limit ourselves to the 23 pitchers on the list with less than 3 relief appearances, we get these averages:

19-7, 191 ERA+, 31 GS, 239 IP...much more in line with Kershaw's numbers. But he was still kinda unlucky.


The ultimate "how did he lose x games?" season for me is still Gibson's 1968.
   92. cardsfanboy Posted: January 16, 2014 at 11:38 AM (#4640230)
The ultimate "how did he lose x games?" season for me is still Gibson's 1968.


Looking at his game logs, it's funny he was at one point in time 3-5 with a 1.52 era, having lost 4 consecutive decisions while allowing 8 runs to score....Cardinals only scored 3 runs for him in that time frame. (For the season he lost 2 times to 1-0 scores, won 4 times 1-0. Three times he pitched 10+ innings while only allowing 1 run to record a win, and another time he pitched 10 innings only to lose 1-0)
   93. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: January 16, 2014 at 11:48 AM (#4640237)
The ultimate "how did he lose x games?" season for me is still Gibson's 1968.


Slightly different, but I always found Pedro's 2003 record puzzling:

He made 29 starts, and won only 14 of them, despite a 211 ERA+. And Boston's offense that year scored 67 more runs than anyone else in the American League. So he was the best pitcher, by far, playing in front of the best offense, by far, and it only resulted in 14 wins (in his case, the surprise was the number of no decisions, rather than the 4 losses).

   94. cardsfanboy Posted: January 16, 2014 at 11:53 AM (#4640243)
He made 29 starts, and won only 14 of them, despite a 211 ERA+. And Boston's offense that year scored 67 more runs than anyone else in the American League. So he was the best pitcher, by far, playing in front of the best offense, by far, and it only resulted in 14 wins (in his case, the surprise was the number of no decisions, rather than the 4 losses).


He had 7 starts that he didn't go past the 5th inning on. Heck using the proxy that you get one decision for every 9 innings pitched, he only missed by two decisions. (you would expect him to have 20 decisions and he had 18) (that explains all four of his losses and three of his no decision)
   95. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: January 16, 2014 at 12:07 PM (#4640254)
Wasn't 2003 the year that the Red Sox decided to start the year without an established closer before getting Kim to close? Pedro probably had a fear share of victories blown.
   96. cardsfanboy Posted: January 16, 2014 at 12:14 PM (#4640266)
Wasn't 2003 the year that the Red Sox decided to start the year without an established closer before getting Kim to close? Pedro probably had a fear share of victories blown.


Pedro's 2003 is the least impressive, impressive season I've ever looked at. Going through the game logs you don't feel like he's that dominant. Arguably the bullpen cost him two games, but that is about it. You can't blame the bullpen for allowing 1 or 2 runs when they are constantly going 3+ innings for him. 13 of his starts he doesn't reach the 7th inning,
   97. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: January 16, 2014 at 12:15 PM (#4640267)
had 7 starts that he didn't go past the 5th inning on.


And all four of his losses were included in those seven short starts.
   98. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: January 16, 2014 at 12:29 PM (#4640291)
Pedro had 5 starts in 2003 when he got a no decision where he pitched 7 innings or more and allowed one run or fewer. He had another no decision where he allowed 2 runs in 7 innings.

He also had three starts that were either rehab starts or a tuneup for the playoffs where he went 5 or fewer.

He had two other no decisions where he had a QS but wasn't dominating.

All in all, Pedro was quite good in his no decisions. He did not have a start where he got a no decision where he pitched poorly.

He probably should have had 2 or three more wins.

Cfb isn't Pedro's biggest fan.
   99. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: January 16, 2014 at 12:38 PM (#4640300)
I understand CFB's point. He wasn't going a long way.

But the weirdness of it is evident when you look at the rest of the Sox starters.

Derek Lowe 17-7 4.47 ERA 203 IP
Tim Wakefield 11-7 4.09 ERA 202 IP
Pedro Martinez 14-4 2.22 ERA 186 IP
John Burkett 12-9 5.15 ERA 181 IP
Casey Fossum 6-5 5.47 ERA 79 IP


The Red Sox offense was dominant in 03. Even with his short starts, you'd think the combination of the most effective pitcher and the best offense would have resulted in more wins than it did, and certainly not three fewer than the combustible Derek Lowe managed in 17 extra innings of work.

   100. cardsfanboy Posted: January 16, 2014 at 12:45 PM (#4640306)
He probably should have had 2 or three more wins.


The general rule is roughly 1 decision for every 9 innings pitched(as a starter), Pedro probably should have had two more decisions, and they probably should have been wins, he had at least two no decisions where he lost 1-2 going either 7 innings or 8 innings.

I just don't see anything mysterious about his performance or lack of decisions that year.

Cfb isn't Pedro's biggest fan.


I love Pedro, just not as much as the average primate.
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