Clayton Kershaw reaches agreement to return to Dodgers

The structure of his deal is unknown, but the left-hander will take his physical at the Dodgers' spring training complex soon.

ByAlden Gonzalez ESPN logo
Tuesday, February 6, 2024
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LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers have reached agreement on a new contract, ensuring that one of the greatest players in franchise history will remain with the only organization he has ever pitched for, sources confirmed to ESPN on Tuesday.

The structure of Kershaw's deal is unknown, but the left-hander, who turns 36 in March, will take his physical at the Dodgers' spring training complex in Glendale, Arizona, within the next day or two. Kershaw will return for at least his 17th season with the Dodgers but will spend at least the first half of the year recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

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The Dodgers can afford to wait. Tyler Glasnow and the newly signed Yoshinobu Yamamoto will make up the top of their rotation at the start of the season, and Walker Buehler, recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, will join shortly thereafter. The Dodgers also signed James Paxton over the offseason and have Bobby Miller locking down a spot, with the likes of Emmet Sheehan, Michael Grove and Gavin Stone also able to contribute.

Kershaw was expected to sign with either the Dodgers or his hometown Texas Rangers this offseason. The New York Post first reported the agreement.

A three-time Cy Young Award winner, an MVP and the predominant pitcher of his era, Kershaw has battled a string of injuries and a decline in velocity in recent years but has nonetheless continued to be exceedingly effective.

The most glaring example came late last season after Kershaw spent all of July sidelined by a sore shoulder. When he returned in August, he struggled to reach 90 mph and was kept on a conservative pitching schedule by the Dodgers. He still found a way to post a 2.23 ERA in eight starts over the last two months of the regular season -- his 16th with the team.

In his lone 2023 postseason outing, Kershaw imploded, getting charged with six runs and recording only one out against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. He was preparing to start again in Game 4, but the Dodgers -- a 100-win team for the third straight year -- were swept in three games, marking the second straight year they had been eliminated in their first round by a division rival.

Three weeks later, Kershaw released a statement announcing he had undergone surgery to repair the glenohumeral ligaments and capsule in his left shoulder, adding: "I am hopeful to return to play at some point next summer."

Kershaw finished in the top three of National League Cy Young voting every year from 2011 to 2015, during which he led all MLB starting pitchers in wins (88), ERA (2.11) and WHIP (0.93) while ranking third in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.16).

He went on the injured list every season thereafter, suffering injuries to his elbow, forearm, shoulder, hips, biceps and back. But he continued to thrive with his highly praised work ethic and a fastball-slider combination that hitters were continually baffled by. Kershaw averaged only 138 innings from 2016 to 2023 -- though the 2020 season was shortened to 60 games because of the COVID-19 pandemic -- but he still posted a 2.55 ERA, second only to Jacob deGrom among qualified starters.

Over his 16 seasons, Kershaw has held opposing batters to a .209 average while going 210-92 with a 2.48 ERA, 2,944 strikeouts and just 669 walks. He has also made 39 appearances in the postseason, starting 32 games, with a 13-13 record, a 4.49 ERA and 213 strikeouts.

Kershaw's elusive title finally arrived in 2020, a milestone that admittedly lifted a sizeable weight off his shoulders. He has entered each of the past three offseasons uncertain about retirement, spending the initial weeks deliberating with his wife and children before deciding to return on one-year contracts.

This offseason played out similarly -- but his recovery from shoulder surgery has added an extra layer of uncertainty.

The Dodgers' currently have a full 40-man roster and still need to make room for reliever Ryan Brasier, who was re-signed earlier this week. The Dodgers will have additional space beginning Thursday, when teams can place players on the 60-day injured list and thus clearing additional 40-man-roster spots. Kershaw is expected to be among that group, as will fellow starters Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, who also underwent surgery last year.