Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw talk extension

Jeff Gross

Yesterday Justin Verlander and Buster Posey signed big-money extensions. Today Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers are working on a deal that could be even bigger.

Following the headline grabbing extensions handed out to Justin Verlander and Buster Posey, the Dodgers have quietly begun extension talks with 2011 NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

The 25 year old lefty is under contract for the 2013 after signing a two year deal before the 2012 season to avoid arbitration. He is scheduled to become a free agent following 2014, his final arbitration-eligible season. Thanks to his age and his remarkable success, Heyman believes Kershaw’s deal could top the seven year/$180M deal that Verlander just netted, especially since the Dodgers are quickly becoming the top spending team in baseball.

The Dodgers southpaw is five years younger than Verlander and he has already won one Cy Young Award and finished second in the voting for another, just as the Tiger’s ace has. He has led the National League in ERA in each of the past two seasons and in strikeouts in 2011. His 2.79 ERA is the best of any starting pitcher since he entered the majors in 2008 and his 974 strikeouts are the 10th highest total in that time.

Should Kershaw reach a deal, it could become the first guaranteed $200M contract ever for a pitcher. Verlander has the chance to make $202M should his 2020 vesting option kick in but he is not guaranteed to reach that mark. Beyond Verlander, Kershaw also compares well to the other top paid pitchers in the game. Earlier this off-season, Mariners ace Felix Hernandez signed a seven year/$175M extension at age 27. Kershaw will likely blow by the top deal for a lefty, which is C.C. Sabathia’s $161M deal signed before the 2009 season.

Heyman warns that neither side is willing to discuss the possible deal openly at this point. However, following the Verlander and Posey deals, these talks could start to build momentum. It is clear that right now teams are willing to lock up top players with long term deal even before they hit free agency and the Dodgers are as capable of spending big money as any organization in the game.

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