LOS ANGELES — On a day that nearly 40-year-old Justin Verlander agreed to a reported two-year $86.6-million deal with the Mets, and three days after soon-to-be 35-year-old Jacob deGrom signed for five years and $185 million with the Rangers, Clayton Kershaw signed for $20 million with the Dodgers for his age-35 season. It’s the second consecutive one-year deal for the left-hander and franchise icon.
“We are so at peace with the way we’re doing things,” Kershaw said over a Zoom call on Monday afternoon. “For me, for our situation, I want to pick the team first and then figure out the contract after that. I don’t want to be told where to play, I want to pick where to play, and if they want me, we’ll figure it out. That’s how I want to go about it the rest of my career, and if there’s a few dollars left on the table, I’ll be okay with that.”
Kershaw’s situation is a family with four children living in a Dallas suburb, a short drive away from Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers. As the kids reach school age, it becomes harder for Kershaw to be around them during a good portion of the season, which makes the idea of pitching for the Rangers more appealing.
“It’s no secret. I think every year there’s only two teams that I would ever play for going forward,” Kershaw said. “There’s not a lot of leverage in that, obviously. But we just never felt like we were done [in Los Angeles].”
The deal for Kershaw’s return for a 16th season in Los Angeles happened quickly, talking to his wife Ellen, then agreeing to terms with the Dodgers five days after officially becoming a free agent. The contract took 25 days after that to be finalized waiting for Kershaw to complete a physical.
“I was kind of procrastinating getting all the MRIs. I figured they had seen this enough where they didn’t need all those, but I guess they still did,” Kershaw quipped. “Honestly, it just feels great to come back. I just felt like it’s where we needed to be and where we want to be. It just feels like we’re not done yet, the way we ended last year. We’ve got another run in us.”
Kershaw said he began his throwing program on Monday, a welcome change after nursing an elbow injury last offseason that knocked him out of the 2021 postseason.
“I started about a month earlier than last year,” he said. “But I’ll be able to take my time and build up. It’ll be like a normal offseason, so it’s awesome.”
Part of that build up will be for spring training and to prepare for the regular season (which starts on March 31), but another goal might be to be ready for the World Baseball Classic in March. Kershaw said he is considering pitching for Team USA.
“We’re still working through some things there. Obviously it’d be a huge honor to get to do that,” Kershaw said. “We’re all watching USA soccer and the World Cup, and how special that is to wear the jersey, and how many people can get behind that.”
Pool play for the United States in the World Baseball Classic includes four games at Chase Field in Phoenix from March 11-15, then potentially games in Miami in the quarterfinals March 17-18 then the championship round from March 19-21. Dodgers teammates Mookie Betts and Will Smith are among the players committed to Team USA, with Julio Urías set to pitch for Mexico in the WBC. Trea Turner, who signed a reported 11-year deal with the Phillies Monday, is also on the Team USA roster.
Kershaw said he still needs to talk with Dodgers owner Mark Walter and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, in addition to seeing how he feels this offseason.
“I’m still a ways away from making that call,” Kershaw said.