Just days from the start of a possibly contentious arbitration process, the Dodgers and pitcher Clayton Kershaw reached agreement on a seven-year, $215-million contract, making the left-hander the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history.
The deal was confirmed Wednesday by Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, and is expected to be announced on Friday.
Kershaw, who last season won his second Cy Young Award, will earn an average of $30.7 million per season. That figure surpasses the $30.4 that injured Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is being paid this season.
Kershaw can opt out of the final two years of the deal, when he will be 30 years old.
The Dodgers were due to exchange arbitration figures with Kershaw on Friday, the deadline for submitting those numbers. Because of the contentious nature of the arbitration process, the Dodgers smartly decided to avoid any bad feelings and sign their star pitcher to a long-term contract, which they had claimed all along was their intention.
“I’m hopeful that by the deadline Friday morning we can work something out,” Dodgers president Stan Kasten told the Los Angeles Times earlier this week.
It’s likely Kershaw would have set an arbitration record with a one-year deal that would have surpassed $20 million.
Instead, he now becomes the highest-paid pitcher in major league history, surpassing the seven-year, $180-million deal Justin Verlander signed with the Detroit Tigers last winter.
Baseball salaries may have spiraled to unforeseen heights, but there is little doubt Kershaw has earned a spot among the highest-paid players in the game. He was 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA last season and won his third consecutive major league ERA title. He also ranked among National League leaders in strikeouts, innings pitched, complete games and opponents’ batting average.
The deal allows Kershaw to become a free agent after the 2018 season. Zack Greinke, Kershaw’s teammate, has a similar opt-out after three years in the six-year, $147-million he signed last offseason