Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Extending Clayton Kershaw should be Dodgers' No. 1 priority this winter

This is a few days late, but wow. Never in my wildest dream did I think Clayton Kershaw would lay an egg like he did on Friday in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.

And yet, he's still the best pitcher in baseball and is worth every penny the Dodgers are about to pay him.

No, I don't think Buster Olney's report of $300 million is legit, because Kershaw would have signed it already (he'd be foolish not to). Instead, I'm in line with Mike Petriello's thinking that it's going to be somewhere the neighborhood of eight years and $220 million.

He'd be the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history and one of the highest-paid players, period.

What makes a deal like this more than paletable is the fact Kershaw just finished his age-25 season, and he did so in great fashion (NLCS Game 6 notwithstanding). He's the first pitcher to finish a season with a sub-2 ERA since Pedro Martinez in 2000 (1.74) and first in the National League since Greg Maddux in 1995 (1.63). He's a true ace when there are fewer and fewer true aces these days.

Kershaw should be (and probably is) the Dodgers' No. 1 priority heading into the offseason. Getting him locked up and happy is vital for the team's future success.

Why did Kershaw perform so poorly in Game 6? It could have been fatigue -- he threw a career-high 236 innings in 2013. Add an additional 23 in the postseason, and he's at nearly 260 innings. That's a lot for any player these days, let alone a 25-year-old.

In no way am I blaming the Dodgers. I'd give the ball to Kershaw as many times as humanly possible. I'm just trying to figure out why he was so bad when the Dodgers needed him most.

He wasn't locating his pitches well. He threw a ton of hanging breaking balls -- pitches that had been so good in his first three playoff outings.

But, that happens sometimes. It's baseball. The Cardinals are a good team, but the Dodger pitching neutralized them for five consecutive games -- the bats just didn't show up. With Hanley Ramirez hurting, it was going to be hard to win the NLCS, let alone the World Series in 2013.

The Dodgers have already made their first offseason move, signing 26-year-old Cuban Alexander Guerrero on Monday to be their second baseman. It won't be the last transaction the Dodgers make this winter. But I'm hoping their next is locking up Kershaw for nearly the next decade.

Photo credit: SD Dirk, Flickr

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