Felix Hernandez contract: Clayton Kershaw just got richer

Otto Greule Jr

The record $175 million contract signed by the Mariners' ace will certainly affect the Dodgers' ace. But will Kershaw be the first to top $200 million?

Mariners ace Felix Hernandez looks to remain in Seattle for a long time, and his blockbuster seven-year, $175 million contract extension, as reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, has ramifications for a pair of Dodgers, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw.

For one, Greinke's status as the highest-paid pitcher by average annual value in baseball history lasted all of two months, as his six-year, $147 million contract with the Dodgers (an average of $24.5 million per year) is now eclipsed.

But more importantly, the Hernandez contract sets the bar for Kershaw in any sort of extension talks with the Dodgers.

First, it's important to note that Kershaw and Hernandez are not completely analogous, but it's close. Hernandez was under contract for two more years at a total of $39.5 million, and his new contract will replace that, and he's now signed through 2019.

Kershaw is signed for 2013 at $11 million (plus $2 million deferred from last year as part of his two-year, $19 million contract), and is eligible for salary arbitration in 2014. So in that respect, both Hernandez and Kershaw were looking at free agency after the 2014 campaign, with Kershaw heading into his age-27 season and Hernandez heading into his age-29 year.

But before we get excited and start throwing around the $200 million mark for Kershaw's next contract, let's not go crazy. I don't think Kershaw will sign for $200 million, for a few reasons:

  • The last eight-year contract signed by a pitcher was Mike Hampton 12 years ago. Kershaw would need an eight-year contract — which might not be out of line since it would only take Kershaw through his age-33 season, still relatively young — to hit $200 million, unless...
  • If Kershaw signs for seven years, he would have to average over $28.5 million per season to hit $200 million, a 14.3% raise over what King Felix is about to receive. One could argue that Kershaw is better than Hernandez (better ERA, ERA+, WHIP, bWAR, FIP, similar wins and strikeouts; King Felix is better in xFIP and fWAR), but at the very least they are similar, and presumably Kershaw would be younger during his contract than Hernandez, assuming Kershaw signs for 2014-2020. But it would be hard for Kershaw to hit that average because...
  • Kershaw is eligible for salary arbitration in 2014, and even if he sets the world on fire this season, as his Dodger Stadium pre-start music suggests, his salary next year will be artificially lower than if he were on the open market. Think $20 million instead of $25 million, or something like that. Even if Kershaw gets $20 million for 2014 (Tim Lincecum is getting a record $22 million in 2013, his final arb season, for example), he would need to get $30 million per year for the final six years to hit the $200 million mark.

We know this. Whatever Kershaw's next contract is, he will be getting paid. A lot. Probably even more than Hernandez. But color me skeptical that Kershaw will get $200 million.

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