The Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed to sign superstar pitcher Clayton Kershaw for the next 7 seasons at $215 million. There is a lot of speculation about what this could mean for other players on the roster, including how it impacts potential trade rumors.

The “who is leaving the dodgers in 2021” is a question that has been asked for a long time. The Dodgers have yet to sign any of their free agents, so it’s possible that they will trade away some players and make room for new ones.

Dodgers Contract Extension, Rangers Roster Spot Possibilities

Clayton Kershaw was one of the most dominating pitchers in Major League Baseball in the 2010s. From 2010 through 2019, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ ace lefty has 146 wins, 2,179 strikeouts, and never had an ERA greater than 3.03 or a WHIP higher than 1.17.

Along the road, Kershaw earned eight All-Star Game selections, three NL Cy Young Awards, and an NL MVP, and he eventually won his illusive World Series victory in 2020 with the Dodgers.

The Dodgers may add Kershaw to their list of all-time mound masters, which includes Sandy Koufax, Don Sutton, Don Drysdale, and Orel Hershiser. However, the Dodgers’ surprising decision to allow Kershaw to become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2021 season implies he may have already played his last game with the team. 

Kershaw’s career is at a fork in the road, and it could go in a number of different paths from here.

Clayton Kershaw’s latest rumors

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw stands in the dugout before a game.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw stands in the dugout before a game. Clayton Kershaw’s contract with the Dodgers might expire in 2022 | Michael Owens/Getty Images

Kershaw, as a free agency starting pitcher with a track record of success, would essentially have his pick of teams to sign with next. According to the most recent speculation concerning his future, he has already made a choice. 

Kershaw will likely contact the Texas Rangers if the Dodgers are serious about breaking connections, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (h/t MLB Trade Rumors). According to the article, the Texas native is considering moving to be closer to his expanding family. If the story is accurate, Kershaw would almost certainly replace Jon Gray and Dane Dunning as the most experienced pitchers in a rotation that includes Jon Gray and Dane Dunning. 

Texas signed numerous players before the lockout (including Gray, Marcus Siemien, and Kole Calhoun) and yet has a projected payroll of only $114.1 million, indicating that it has the financial flexibility to add Kershaw to the mix.

According to Bleacher Report, if the Rangers aren’t interested, the Mariners, Mets, Blue Jays, Angels, Mets, and Giants may be interested. Still, the Dodgers might be the first club to contact, but we won’t know anything until the tumultuous MLB dispute is over and teams and free players can begin negotiating.

Clayton Kershaw’s argument for staying with the Dodgers

Apart from wanting to maintain a franchise foundation, the Dodgers’ desire to retain Kershaw isn’t all that surprising when compared to the rest of the pitching staff.

  • Trevor Bauer is the team’s ace, and he has the talent and a Cy Young Award to prove it. He’s also been accused of sexual assault, and his Dodgers teammates have effectively banished him as a result. Even though Bauer is under contract, bringing him back may be risky.
  • David Price is entering his 37th season as a pitcher, and he’s a long cry from the man who had seven consecutive seasons of double-digit victories and a 3.50 ERA. Price pitched in only 11 games with the Dodgers in 2021, going 5-2. His ERA+ of 102 was his lowest since his first full season as a starter in 2009 with the Tampa Bay Rays. Price’s $32 million contract almost guarantees him a spot in the rotation in 2022, but his performance and health (he experienced arm and hamstring ailments in 2021, according to Fox Sports) are major concerns.
  • Before the lockout, Andrew Heaney signed as a free agent, but he’s far from certain. Only once in his career has he tossed more than 130 innings in a season: in 2018. His job path until 2021 is much too uncertain to depend on.
  • Walker Buehler is a two-time all-star who pitched to a 16-4 record in 2021, but he’s never pitched as the ace before. Moving him up to No. 1 to replace Kershaw for a club that is still a contender seems to be a hazardous decision.
  • Julio Urias has long been hailed as the next big thing, but it wasn’t until 2021 (a 20-3 record, 3.13 FIP, and a seventh-place finish in the Cy Young vote) that he fully proved it. Putting him at the top of the rotation, like Buehler, is a tall order.

Given the nature of their starting rotation, the Dodgers would be wise to get Kershaw back, particularly if they don’t want to be short on starting pitchers. They do, however, have a few compelling reasons to go on.

Why the Dodgers may be able to move on

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Despite the fact that Kershaw is already an all-time Dodger great, saying farewell to him might be the right move for three reasons.

Financially, it makes sense.

The Dodgers are a team that spends a lot of money. According to True Blue LA, they have payrolls of $200 million or over in eight of the past nine seasons through 2021. Their compensation is expected to be more than $214 million in 2022. Even if Kershaw signs for $21.7 million (a 10% pay decrease from $31 million in 2021), LA would still have a large salary burden, limiting its ability to add to the payroll before the trade deadline.

Kershaw has been hampered by injuries.

Kershaw was placed on the disabled list twice in 2021 because to elbow and forearm concerns. Even if Kershaw agrees to a reduction, arm injuries for a soon-to-be 34-year-old pitcher with a lot of mileage (almost 2,500 career innings thrown) may not be the best investment for the Dodgers.

There are plenty of free agency pitchers available.

According to SI.com, although the majority of the elite free agency pitchers signed with new organizations before the lockout, dozens of starters are still available. If the Dodgers believe their young stars are ready to take the stage, they might try to add more cheap choices like Zack Greinke, Chris Archer, Johnny Cueto, or Danny Duffy to their rotation. 

Baseball Reference provided all stats. Spotrac provided all contract statistics.

The “kershaw retire” is a rumor that has been floating around the internet. If it turns out to be true, the Dodgers will have to find a new ace pitcher. The Rangers have some spots open on their roster and could use Kershaw’s help.

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