It’s official: Clayton Kershaw is back.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have re-signed three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw to a one-year contract through the 2022 season.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) March 13, 2022
The future Hall of Famer officially re-signed with his team of the last fourteen years when he finalized a one-year, $17,000,000 contract with the Dodgers on Sunday. As the top remaining free-agent pitcher on the market, Kershaw’s decision was widely anticipated, as many around baseball expected him to either return to Los Angeles or to undergo a change of scenery with his hometown Texas Rangers. Dodgers fans everywhere breathed a sigh of relief, however, when the news broke Friday that he was returning to Chavez Ravine for at least one more season.
Ultimately, Kershaw’s decision came down to his drive to contend for another championship. “At the end of the day, I wanted to be here and win a World Series. I think the Dodgers give me the best chance to do that and I’m excited to be back,” Kershaw said to reporters on Sunday.
Kershaw’s decision came after the Dodgers chose not to extend the pitcher a qualifying offer prior to the lockout, which gave the pitcher time to think through his decision without being subjected to the offer’s deadline (and free of the baggage of the attached draft pick compensation in free agency).
Kershaw made his choice known to teams in the hours following the end of the owner’s lockout, and the Dodgers worked quickly to get it done in time for him to report for the first day of Spring Training.
Clayton Kershaw is here. pic.twitter.com/Pkwoa3Ig8o
— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) March 13, 2022
And just like that, it finally feels right to say that baseball is back.
Kershaw will rejoin a formidable 2022 Dodgers rotation that also features breakout stars in the fire-balling Walker Buehler and Julio Urías, and is projected to include Tony Gonsolin and Andrew Heaney as well. In his return to the Dodgers, expectations for Kershaw will largely remain consistent with previous seasons, in that his primary limitation will be his health.
After elbow and forearm discomfort prematurely ended his 2021 campaign, much of the attention will be placed on his ability to limit his time missed due to injury. At this point in his storied career, the southpaw has put more miles on his arm than just about anyone, with 2,643 career innings pitched, including the playoffs. Steamer currently has Kershaw projected to pitch 151 innings in 2022, while ZiPS DC (147 IP) and THE BAT (127 IP) are forecasting slightly fewer.
However, the southpaw remains optimistic, saying “I wouldn’t come back if I didn’t think I could pitch a full season and be ready to go. That’s what I’m here to do.” Kershaw also added that he feels completely recovered from his elbow injury and that while he’s currently behind in his throwing program to this point, he will be ready in time for Opening Day.
Clayton Kershaw came out of his live BP feeling good, he said. Called it “encouraging” for his first time facing hitters this spring.
— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) March 14, 2022
While the quantity of Kershaw’s innings may be in question, he’s still frequently effective when he takes the mound. In 2021, he posted the highest ERA of his career since his rookie season in 2008, and it still came out to a respectable 3.55 mark. He also posted a 3.00 FIP and 1.02 WHIP to go with top-five finishes in K-BB% and CSW% (min. 120 IP). Much of his success last season came off the back of one of the most dominant sliders in baseball, with a 27.4% swinging-strike rate on a whopping 48.2% usage rate.
It’s clear the three-time Cy Young winner still has gas in the tank, and for more, you can check out Nate Schwartz’s excellent write-up on the ace here. You can also see what Nick Pollack had to say about Kershaw in his Top 200 SP Rankings, as part of our 2022 Pitcher List Draft Kit.
As one of the Dodgers’ greatest franchise legends, Kershaw will also be entering his age-34 season looking to continue his climb atop the team’s leaderboards.
One of the team’s most exciting storylines to follow in the early weeks of the season will be Kershaw’s chase to be the Dodgers’ all-time strikeout king, as he currently sits just 26 strikeouts shy of Don Sutton’s mark of 2,696. It’s likely he finally surpasses the late Sutton’s record as early as his third or fourth start of the season.
Another thread to keep an eye on will be the pitcher’s quest for 15 more wins on his journey to reach the career milestone of 200, a mark that only two other Dodgers pitchers have achieved. If Kershaw’s able to do so in 2o22, he will join Justin Verlander (226) and Zack Greinke (219) as the only active pitchers with 200 or more victories in MLB.
In a time when it feels rarer than ever to have a franchise player spend their entire career in one uniform, Kershaw’s contract is refreshing for the sport of Major League Baseball. And, while he may no longer be the undisputed best in the league, the Dodgers were able to retain one of the game’s most formidable pitchers, and will once again look to make a deep run in October as Kershaw looks to put the finishing touches on his Hall of Fame career.
Clayton Kershaw is back, and America’s Pastime is too.
Photo by Kevin French/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)