Clayton Kershaw’s second foray into free agency looks to be much, much shorter than his first. Mere hours after the Dodgers did not extend a qualifying offer to their franchise icon, we found out the real reason why. Kershaw is reportedly closing in a one-year contract to return to Los Angeles, per multiple reports.
Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic was first to report Kershaw’s return, which was confirmed by Bill Plunkett at the Orange County Register, Juan Toribio at MLB.com, and Mike Digiovanna at the Los Angeles Times.
Clayton Kershaw and Dodgers nearing one-year deal, source tells @TheAthletic— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 11, 2022
This offseason is much different than last year for Kershaw, who was battling an elbow injury that kept him out of the postseason. After an injection of platelet-rich plasma into his elbow, Kershaw’s offseason was filled with rest, not picking up a baseball until January. This year, Kershaw ended the season healthy, and looked especially strong down the stretch.
Kershaw still dealt with injuries in 2022, missing a total of 52 games in two IL stints for back pain. But when he was on the mound he was brilliant in his 22 starts, with a 2.28 ERA, 2.57 FIP, and 2.51 xERA, his best marks in six years.
Among the 104 major league pitchers with at least 120 innings in 2022, Kershaw ranked sixth in ERA and FIP, third in xERA, and 13th in strikeout-minus-walk rate (23.1 percent).
At the season-ending press conference at Dodger Stadium, Andrew Friedman said, “From our standpoint, nothing has changed. My strong hope is that Clayton Kershaw is pitching here next year,” a sentiment which was repeated at the general manager meetings in Las Vegas earlier this week.
Kershaw last year signed a one-year, $17-million contract to return to the Dodgers, and earned another $3 million in bonuses, $1 million for each of 16, 20, and 22 starts. He didn’t sign that deal until March 14, though another main reason for the long wait was the 99-day MLB lockout.
This year, Kershaw and the Dodgers reportedly came to an agreement within five days of him reaching free agency.
If Kershaw, who turns 35 in March, throws a pitch in 2023, that will mark 16 major league seasons with the Dodgers, matching Don Sutton for the franchise record. Only five position players played that many years with the Dodgers — Zack Wheat (18 years), Bill Russell (18), Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, and Duke Snider.