The Dodgers took care of two of their three arbitration-eligible players on Tuesday, but one big fish remains. Andre Ethier and James Loney signed one-year deals, but the Dodgers were unable to work out a contract with reigning Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.
The pitcher and the team exchanged salary arbitration figures on Tuesday, with Kershaw seeking $10 million in 2012 while the Dodgers offered $6.5 million, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The numbers represent the core of the interpretation of this case, similar to what we discussed last week.
The normal record for salary for a first-year arbitration-eligible pitcher is $4.35 million, set by Dontrelle Willis in 2006 and matched by Cole Hamels in 2009 (the first year of a three-year contract) and David Price today (the fine folks at DRaysBay have the details on their southpaw's new deal). The Dodgers have offered a salary that represents a 49.4% raise over this, so even they recognize the value of Kershaw's Cy Young award.
Kershaw, meanwhile, has submitted a number that reflects his outlier status, more in line with that of Tim Lincecum, who signed a two-year, $23 million contract in 2010 that paid the Giants' hurler a $2 million signing bonus, $8 million in 2010, and $13 million in 2011. Lincecum has his own arbitration fight this winter, as he will set a new record whether at $17 million or $21.5 million.
The number to watch in Kershaw's case is $8.25 million, the midpoint of both submitted salaries and the number both sides will argue against. If Kershaw's camp can convince the three-person arbitration panel that he is worth $8,250,001 then he will win the case; conversely Alex Tamin and the Dodger crew will fight for $8,249,999 and below (Just to be clear, if this goes to a hearing, there are only two options for the panel to decide: Kershaw will either be awarded $6.5 million or $10 million, but both sides will argue for their side of the midpoint to sway the arbitration panel).
The $8.25 million midpoint isn't too far off from my guess last week of an $8.5 million salary for Kershaw. It really wouldn't surprise me if either side won an arbitration hearing, as there are solid arguments on both sides. But I think eventually, even though both sides are pretty far apart now, Kershaw and the Dodgers will eventually settle. There is too much to lose on each side to risk going to a hearing.
Besides, I contend that Kershaw and the Dodgers have already agreed to a contract for 2012. Kershaw has just been so busy signing copies of his new book that his left hand has been too tired to sign said contract.