The 2018 season carries significant financial implications for Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, as he’ll have an opportunity to opt out of the final two years of his current seven-year contract and test free agency in the offseason.
The power to do so was one that was granted to Kershaw with the notion that he could become a free agent at 30 years old. Needless to say, if Kershaw maintains similar production over the entirety of the season, he will set himself up for another lucrative deal this winter.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner has largely thrived out of the gate through five starts, posting a 2.45 ERA, 3.02 FIP and 0.97 WHIP over 33 innings with 35 strikeouts to just three walks.
According to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball, the left-hander, as it stands, is expected to exercise his opt-out clause and become one of the most-coveted free-agent starting pitchers in recent memory:
Barring something unforeseen (and really, even if there is something unforeseen), folks in that clubhouse fully expect him to either opt out or use the opt out to improve his financial standing after the year.
There have been guesses that he may not, including some in Jerry Crasnick’s poll of 43 major-league executives. But people in the game say they will be “shocked” if Kershaw doesn’t at least use the opt out.
Kershaw still needs to prove he has truly overcome the back issues that shortened his previous two campaigns. A similar injury this season may give pause to any thought of potentially opting out.
In the wake of a velocity decline, Kershaw has reinvented himself on the mound by relying more heavily on slider than ever before. It is one of the many factors to his early season success.
Should Kershaw indeed decide to opt out, he’ll join a potentially historic free agent class that is set to include the likes of Josh Donaldson, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Andrew Miller, among others.
The Dodgers reset their luxury tax penalties last offseason and are well-suited to retain Kershaw at all costs. General manager Farhan Zaidi previously revealed that the organization will maintain open dialogue and presumably attempt to hammer out an extension before the offseason.