Clayton Kershaw, the (dare I say it?) diminishing Dodgers’ ace, has hit the disabled list again, for the third consecutive season. This time it’s the 10-day DL, for left biceps tendonitis. The best spin the team could put on this dreaded development was Dodgers manager Dave Roberts declaring they are “cautiously optimistic”.
“Cautiously optimistic” is how I would approach the debate that’s swirled around Kershaw’s possible free agency at the end of this season. Fans, bloggers and reporters have opined endlessly on the steps the Dodgers should take when that day comes – many favoring plans and budgetary moves by the Dodgers’ front office geared toward retaining Kershaw, no matter the cost.
I’ve never dove into those debates. The most I’ve done is say we should all wait until we see how this season goes for the thirty-year old. I figure most fans still see Kershaw as they’ve always seen him – as the best pitcher on the planet, the eternal winner, the best of a generation. I’ve seen him in all of those roles myself, but less so since he hit the disabled list last year (his second season in a row at the time) and since his home runs allowed numbers have been on the steady rise.
Although the season is young, the home run bug is once again rearing its ugly head, and has bit Kershaw more times than I’m comfortable with. Last season he surrendered 23 dingers, the most of his career. In just the first month of this season, he’s already given up seven. That would be a pace of something like 35-45 homers. Things aren’t exactly looking better on that front.
In 2016 Kershaw missed two months of the season with a herniated disc in his back. Last season he was out for six weeks, again because of a bad back. Yes, Kershaw bounced back from both injuries and went on to be a solid leader in the rotation, but here we are – receiving news he’s going on he DL for the third time in a row. Test results have come back tonight from Kershaw’s MRI, and media is quickly filling up with folks telling us this is a minor thing that can be worked out with a small injection, some massage and a glass of warm milk.
I hope that is exactly how everything will play out, but I simply can’t ignore the fact “Kershaw the pitching god” has become “Kershaw the exceptionally good at pitching human” – who’s injured every year. I figure it’s even money at best that he doesn’t hit the DL again this season.
All of that said, keep your pitchforks in the barn and the tar and feathers packed up for another day. Go ahead and read twice, you won’t find me saying anywhere in this article that Kershaw is done for and the Dodgers should just let him walk away. I’m not being a fatalist here, but one thing I am, is a realist. The man’s body is older and the concerns about injury and performance are legitimate and worthy of some good old wait and see caution.
If Kershaw doesn’t opt out and chooses to remain a Dodger, he’s due to be paid just over 30 million dollars over the next two seasons. That’s not exactly chump change, but more than a few folks think he’ll pass on that and check his value on the open market. While it’s fun to speculate on how much he might fetch in a free agent bidding war, I don’t embrace the idea the Dodgers organization should throw every available dollar (and then some) on a new multiple-year contract for a player who’s best and healthiest pitching days just might be behind him.