Clayton Kershaw is coming back to the Dodgers for a record 17th season, and now the only question is if and when he might pitch in 2024. The franchise icon agreed to a deal with the Dodgers, per multiple reports.
Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman of the New York Post on Tuesday morning were the first to report a deal. Alden González of ESPN also reported a contract agreement, as did Jack Harris, who is thankfully still at the Los Angeles Times.
Kershaw’s contract includes a player option for 2025, per Andy McCullough at The Athletic.
On Saturday at DodgerFest at Dodger Stadium, Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes and manager Dave Roberts said the team has been in contact with Kershaw, and made it clear they wanted him to return.
“We’ll continue to stay in touch with Clayton, and we’ll progress,” Gomes said.
Kershaw had surgery on November 3 to repair the gleno-humeral ligaments and capsule in his left shoulder, which sidelined him for six weeks in July and August and limited him on the mound in the second half of the season.
He said in his statement following the surgery, “I am hopeful to return to play at some point next summer.”
Kershaw has missed time on the injured list in each of the last eight seasons, but this was the first major surgery of his career. Even with the missed time in 2023, Kershaw’s 24 starts and 131⅔ innings pitched were his most in four years, and both led a heavily-depleted Dodgers rotation.
While on the mound last season Kershaw was still very effective, his 2.46 ERA second-best among major league pitchers with at least 120 innings, and his 3.82 xERA 25th-best in that 102-pitcher group.
Kershaw had nominal success after his return from the injured list in August, posting a 2.23 ERA in eight starts that were spread out to give him more rest. There were cracks in the armor though, with reduced velocity, an elevated walk rate (11.1 percent) and poor peripherals (5.40 FIP).
The correction came swiftly in Game 1 of the NLDS, when Kershaw had the worst start of his career, allowing six runs to the D-backs while recording only one out, after which Kershaw dismissed any injury concerns.
“I didn’t make enough good pitches. There’s nothing health-related here,” Kershaw said after Game 1. “Just bad pitching.”
In an interview with David Vassegh on Dodger Talk on December 13, Kershaw said he made the decision he wanted to continue pitching in 2024 after talking with his wife Ellen.
“The competitor in me doesn’t want it to end the way it did,” Kershaw said. “I want to win. I want to win another World Series.”
The three-time Cy Young Award winner and 10-time All-Star is the Dodgers all-time leader in strikeouts (2,944), bWAR (77.1), and fWAR (75.8). In 2023 he reached the 200-win milestone, and his 210 wins passed Don Drysdale for second-most in franchise history.
Kershaw enters his age-36 season in 2024 just 56 strikeouts shy of 3,000.
“He’s always been a Dodger, and that’s our hope as well,” Roberts said Saturday. “I think his timing right now is to dominate the rehab process, and get something done when it makes sense.”
Kershaw’s 17th season with the Dodgers passes Don Sutton for the most years by a pitcher with the Dodgers. In franchise history, the only position players who were Dodgers for longer were Zack Wheat and Bill Russell with 18 seasons each.
The Dodgers’ 40-man roster is currently full. Thursday, when pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch in Arizona, is the first day the Dodgers can utilize the 60-day injured list, which would open up potential spots. Nick Frasso, Tony Gonsolin, and Dustin May are all candidates for the 60-day IL, coming off surgeries, as is Kershaw once he signs should the Dodgers need another roster spot.