Clayton Kershaw's record-setting $215 million contract is structured so that the Dodgers left-hander can opt out after five years, but in doing so would be leaving a hefty amount on the table. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported the break down of the seven-year deal:
$18 million signing bonus
2014: $4 million
2015: $30 million
2016: $32 million
2017: $33 million
2018: $33 million
2019: $32 million
2020: $33 million
Heyman reports the signing bonus as being paid all in 2014, effectively bringing Kershaw's salary for the season to $22 million, a figure less than the average annual value but more in line with what he might have made through his final year of salary arbitration.
The Dodgers now have $240.675 million committed to 22 players in 2014.
As for the heavy split of signing bonus to salary in 2014, that is advantageous to Kershaw as Texas has no state income tax. That's $18 million he receives as a Texas resident rather than being subject to paying state taxes, where applicable, on his pro-rated salary based on the location of the team throughout the season.
The six free agent seasons bought out by this deal, if he doesn't opt out after 2018, will see Kershaw make $193 million, an average of $32.17 million per season. The previous pitcher record for average annual value was $28 million for Justin Verlander, signed last season with the Tigers and covering 2015-2019.
Verlander will be ages 32-36 for those years. Kershaw, with a better track record than Verlander at the time the contracts were signed, will be ages 27-32 for his (otherwise) free agent years. Hence the roughly 15% raise over the Detroit ace.
For the first five years, Kershaw receives $150 million, an average of $30 million per season. If he decides to opt out after the 2018 season, at age 30, he will walk away from $65 million over two years. If Kershaw can either beat that average value or get a long-term deal at a rate close enough to that figure, that will mean he has pitched extremely well for the Dodgers from 2014-2018. This is a great thing.
If Kershaw completely regresses or gets hurt and the Dodgers are on the hook in those final years, well that's just part of the risk. The Dodgers did what they had to do to get the deal done, and that's a great thing, too.