Clayton Kershaw and the Very Serious Men

Clayton Kershaw calculates how many times he could buy and sell Tim Lincecum - Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Is Clayton Kershaw's massive extension an example of big market spending gone mad, or is it just the system working as intended?

As you may have heard, last week the Dodgers gave the largest yearly salary in baseball history to the best pitcher in baseball. While this really shouldn't have been a surprise in a world where Scott Feldman gets 30 million dollars and six teams attended a Brett Tomko workout, this deal paved the way for some very serious men to have some very serious thoughts.

There's the leadership we expect from the Bud Selig Leadership Award winner.

While expecting very serious men to put more thought into this than "that is a very big number, and the Dodgers payroll is already large" is asking far too much, the Kershaw deal is the exact opposite of the Dodgers egregiously overspending.

  • Kershaw was drafted by the Dodgers. Money grubbing players are ruining the game by going to the high bidder...unless their current team is paying other players a lot of money then whoooo free market, guys!
  • Kershaw isn't going to somehow end up on the Pirates if he hits the market. Saying he shouldn't be on the Dodgers means you want him on the Yankees instead. Setting up a system where Kershaw could ever be a Padre is arguing that you want Hank Steinbrenner to have an extra yacht for his winter home.
  • The Dodgers are dropping 39 million dollars worth of starting pitcher from their payroll by the time this extension kicks in. Now, unless Zach Lee shows up and is great from day one there's going to be multiple starters added next offseason, but as of now the Dodgers have 35 million less committed to starting pitchers in 2015 than they do in 2014.
  • Barring total disaster Kershaw would have been the greatest player to hit the free agent market since A-Rod left the Mariners. The contract he signed is the minimum he would need to receive that wouldn't end in me comparing his agent to a guy playing Three Card Monte in a back alley. If you want to complain about small market teams getting priced out of pitching, blame the teams that give below average pitchers four years.

The funny thing is that this has been one of Ned Colletti's more restrained winters. The Dodgers big free agent expenditures this offseason have been a foreign second baseman whose biggest fans agree he can be "okay, I guess", an attention starved hobo who's thrown 13 innings in the last two years1, and a guy that was offered up for Carlos Marmol last year, and the side giving up Marmol said no. If Frank McCourt were running the team we'd be up in arms in the Dodgers seeking out reclamation projects instead of proven commodities. To put the Dodger offseason in context, here's how much the Dodgers have spent on big league free agents every year in the Colletti regime2

Year Money Spent On Free Agents
2006 $63,850,000
2007 $116,500,000
2008 $76,420,000
2009 $106,000,000
2010 $13,520,000
2011 $91,000,000
2012 $37,850,000
2013 $234,050,000
2014 $71,350,000 (as of 1/25/14)

I'm not going to argue that the Dodgers don't have a hugely unfair advantage over most of the league, but Kershaw has nothing to do with that. Blame Carl Crawford, blame Josh Beckett, blame Brandon League, but the greatest pitcher in baseball getting more money than anyone else is a rare example of the MLB's salary structure actually working. Besides, lots of small market teams had a shot at getting Clayton Kershaw, they just wanted Luke Hochevar instead.

1. Okay, that one may have been excessive.

2. Data taken from the salary pages of Baseball Reference, may not include salary bonuses or some low end free agents since I couldn't remember if they were NRIs.

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