LOS ANGELES — Three former MVPs were present at DodgerFest on Saturday, with newcomer Shohei Ohtani joining Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman on stage in front of fans at Dodger Stadium. The door remains open for a fourth former MVP, Clayton Kershaw, to return as well.
Saturday was the 10th iteration of a Dodgers fan fest, dating back to 2013, the first full year of the Guggenheim Partners ownership group. It was the first one without Kershaw already on the roster.
Kershaw has been a mainstay with the Dodgers, a franchise icon with three Cy Young Awards and an MVP under his belt. His 16 years of pitching for the Dodgers match Don Sutton for the most in franchise history. The Dodgers would very much like to make it 17, at least.
“I talked with Clayton a few days ago by way of text. He said his rehab is coming along really well,” manager Dave Roberts said Saturday. “You know us, we’re going to keep in contact and talk. He’s always been a Dodger, and that’s our hope as well.”
Kershaw is coming off surgery in November to repair the gleno-humeral ligaments and capsule in his left shoulder, an injury that limited him on the mound over the final three months of the 2023, culminating in the worst postseason start of his career in Game 1 of the NLDS.
“[My wife Ellen and I] kind of came to the conclusion that, if I wanted to play again I would need to get my shoulder fixed. That was hard,” Kershaw said in an interview with David Vassegh on Dodger Talk in December. “That took a few weeks to think about, talk through, and pray through. Ellen and I were finally like, ‘You know what? I’m not done,’ and at the same time I didn’t want my shoulder to hurt any more and I thought this was the best way to do it.”
The Dodgers have made no secret about their desire for Kershaw to pitch his entire career for them.
“We’ll continue to stay in touch with Clayton,” general manager Brandon Gomes said Saturday, “and we’ll progress.”
Rehab from shoulder surgery will likely keep Kershaw out until at least after the All-Star break. It also might change the calculus on his usual offseason preference of going year to year. Alden González at ESPN wrote Saturday that Kershaw “is widely expected to eventually sign a two-year contract.”
As always, it’s down to Kershaw either returning to the Dodgers or pitching with his hometown Rangers, who this year are coming off of a championship. Kershaw remains close friends with Texas general manager Chris Young, and both were together on Wednesday to have their jerseys retired by Highland Park High School, their alma mater.
The Dodgers’ 40-man roster is currently full — as is the Rangers’ roster — but Los Angeles can start utilizing the 60-day injured list to open spots as early as Thursday, when pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch. Tony Gonsolin is expected to miss the 2024 season after Tommy John surgery, Dustin May is not expected back until after the All-Star break at the earliest after his elbow surgery, and Nick Frasso revealed Saturday that he had surgery in November to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, and might not pitch this season.
Whenever Kershaw decides to sign, the Dodgers or Rangers will surely make room, and could even place him on the 60-day IL afterwards as he rehabs from his own surgery. But there doesn’t appear to be a sense of urgency for when Kershaw might make his decision.
“I think his timing right now is to dominate the rehab process, and get something done when it makes sense,” Roberts said.