For Clayton Kershaw, he could be a free agent in two weeks as he controls the key to his future with his current contract that allows for an opt-out after this 2018 season. He is one of the greatest pitchers of the post-PED era with three Cy Young awards and one MVP award — but unlike his favorite Dodger lefty, Sandy Koufax, who had a career 0.95 post-season ERA — Clayton Kershaw has been an inconsistent postseason pitcher with a large sample size of 145.0 innings and a 4.28 ERA overall. In fact Kershaw has been good in his NLDS appearances with a 3.72 ERA, then his NLCS ERA is a poor 4.61, and now he has an horrific 5.49 ERA in his limited innings in four World Series games.
Who wouldn’t want Clayton Kershaw on their staff if you believe he would be healthy going forward. He has a career 2.39 ERA in the regular season, and he is the main reason the Dodgers have won six consecutive NL West titles. Six banners in a row since 2013 for the Dodgers who most likely will do whatever it takes to retain Kershaw. The big lefty is due over $70 million over the next two seasons if he does not opt-out of his contract. Kershaw turns 31 years old in March, but his back issues have also limited his innings the last 3 seasons as he has missed a combined 22-starts.
Part of missing “some” starts the last three years could also be a Dodgers strategy to keep Kershaw fresh for the postseason. It is hard to say what the Dodgers are thinking as they are very analytically driven and would never disclose their strategies. Kershaw seems to give his team some great starts along with some poor starts in each postseason, and this year seems to be that same case. While Kershaw threw an 8.0 inning shutout against Atlanta in the NLDS, he then gave up 5-runs in 3.0 innings in his first game of the NLCS, but then bounced back to throw a 7.0 innings 1-run gem in game 5 of the NLCS followed by his dud last night in the World Series. If Kershaw follows that trend, he should throw a gem if he pitches again in the World Series next week.
If Kershaw opts out of his contract, the motivation could be his chance to sign a deal for several years versus his current deal which expires after the 2020 season. He likely will not get $35 million AAV on a deal, but would a team like the Washington Nationals pay him $30 million a year for 4 years? Could you imagine a rotation of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Kershaw? The chances are near 0% on that happening so don’t expect it, but never say never with the Washington Nationals.