While playing with pretend money, both Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw came out ahead

Lisa Blumenfeld

Yesterday, Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers agreed to a 7-year, $215 million extension, the largest for a pitcher in the game's history. Somehow, both sides won the deal.

Yesterday afternoon, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed reigning Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw, to a 7-year, $215 million contract extension. This is how I imagine the contract discussions went down:

Ned Colletti: Son, I'm not going to back up a Brinks truck for you...

Clayton Kershaw: /stares ahead, unthinking, unfeeling.

Ned Colletti: I'm going to bring in two. Boys, back it in.

Clayton Kershaw: /stares ahead, unthinking, unfeeling, as two enormous trucks smash through the wall, cash spilling out of them like an overstuffed calzone.

The deal immediately gives Kershaw the largest ever contract for a pitcher along with the highest average annual value regardless of his position. (The highest for a single season is still Alex Rodriguez.)

But while that seems like a lot of risk and money to us peons, pitchers possessing arms as delicate as wet spaghetti, let me throw a few more numbers at you. Clayton Kershaw, only 26 years old next season, has

  • 2 Cy Young Awards (and one second place finish)

  • 3 ERA titles

  • 2 Strikeout titles

Here are some other Clayton Kershaw fun facts that may be nice to have in your back pocket:

  • Over the last three seasons, Kershaw is first in ERA and FIP, second in fWAR, third in wins and innings, and fifth in K/9. In every category that he is not first, he is the youngest player among league leaders.

  • Kershaw is one of only 11 pitchers with at least 800 innings and an ERA+ of 140 or higher by his age 25 season. He's behind only Walter Johnson, Ed Reulbach, George McQuillan, and Smoky Joe Wood and is in front of Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, and Tom Seaver. Which is pretty decent company.

  • Kershaw is one of only nine players with 1,200 strikeouts through age 25, a list that includes Walter Johnson (again), Bert Blyleven, Felix Hernandez, and Don Drysdale.

  • He's nicknamed "The Claw," not because of his large hands, but because he has a third, hidden claw-like appendage that he keeps hidden under his uniform.

But here is the most important fact to remember:

That right there immediately makes any criticism of the deal nearly moot, the Dodgers pulling in approximately $340 million every year from their TV contract alone. That ignores the extra cash from the league's new national TV contract, ticket sales, and the coins found underneath Dodger Stadium seats every evening.

The Los Angeles Dodgers can essentially pay whoever they want, however much they want without worrying about it. If the Dodgers announced tomorrow that they were going to begin manufacturing fighter jets to patrol Chavez Ravine simply because they could, I wouldn't be shocked.

Even in light of those numbers, Kershaw's deal still makes a lot of sense for both parties. For Kershaw, the contract not only guarantees that his great-great-grandchildren will be horribly spoiled, but he will also be young enough to capitalize on another huge deal when the contract is over, whether he opts out in five years or stays for all seven.

This is also the rare contract that's good for the player and the team, too. According to Fangraphs, Kershaw was worth $32.5 million last season, but that was also under the assumption that a win is worth roughly $5 million dollars. As this offseason has shown, the current value of a win is closer to $7 million, making Kershaw's 2013 value closer to $45.5 million dollars. Even if Kershaw comes back to earth and joins us humans, pitching like he did during his first full year in 2009, he would still be worth $28 million, essentially paying for his contract.

Add in the Dodgers ability to market and sell tickets around Kershaw, playing in more playoff games with him than without (In 2012, Wendy Thurm estimated the value for playing one Division Series game at close to $5 million), and not having to ever face Kershaw, the deal only makes more sense. Especially with players like Scott Kazmir, coming off of one slightly-below average season in his last five, earning $11 million per year. You can either have 2-3 Scott Kazmirs each year, or one Clayton Kershaw. I'd rather have Clayton Kershaw.

Yes, there is still risk in signing a pitcher to a contract worth more than most national landmarks, and no, the Dodgers cannot continue to throw money at every player that comes their way. Eventually, the weight of a Kershaw, a Kemp, and perhaps a Tanaka will become too much to bear. I think. I mean, geez, with that much money in their coffers, it may not ever matter, the Dodgers deciding to sign every single player in existence, ending Major League Baseball forever.

Under any reasonable projection system, the Dodgers are better every year for the next seven years with Clayton Kershaw on their side. And when the rules are made up and the money doesn't matter, both sides found a way to win.

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