I bet that got your attention, didn’t it? The unfortunate part is that it could very well happen, and in the not-to-distant future.
Allow me to elaborate.
Perhaps the only upside to the Giants sweeping the Tigers in four games in the 2012 World Series is that we only had to listen to the oft incorrect and highly incompetent Tim McCarver for only four games instead of six or seven; but one of the very few things that McCarver did get right (hey, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while) is that the Giants are in quite a predicament with their two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.
As most folks know, Lincecum will be entering the second year of a 2-year / $40.5 million contract in 2013, thus making him a free agent at season’s end. And with the Giants having just spent $127.5 million on a 6-year contract extension for their ace Matt Cain and another $35 million on a 5-year contract extension for Madison Bumgarner, the Giants have pretty much blown their wad and will most likely be unable to pay Lincecum what he will want to remain with the hated ones.
As I said, Lincecum is entering the final year of a 2-year contract and if he is not offered a contract extension prior to spring training 2013, my guess is that he will terminate contract talks once the season begins and will test the free agent market at the conclusion of the 2013 season, when he would undoubtedly be seeking (and probably get) a multi-year, high dollar contract elsewhere (perhaps even with the Dodgers). And while I absolutely loathe the Giants and get tremendous satisfaction at them having issues like this, the very same thing could happen with Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.
Like Lincecum, Kershaw will be entering the second year of his 2-year / $19 million contract in 2013. The difference, and it’s a big one, is that Kershaw is still under team control and will still be arbitration eligible in 2014. The problem with this is that the last thing that the Dodgers want is for Kershaw to go into an arbitration hearing, which would undoubtedly sour him and pretty much push him into free agency at the conclusion of the 2014 season.
Interestingly enough, I actually saw this one coming almost a year ago and even mentioned it over on the ThinkBlueLA forum. And then a week ago, Mark Saxon of ESPN LA Dodgers Report posted an article on this exact subject. Mark pointed out that with each passing month, it becomes more likely that Kershaw will leave as a free agent at the end of the 2014 season. When Dodgers GM Ned Colletti was asked if he plans to discuss this extremely crucial issue with Kershaw (and his agent Alan Hendricks) this winter, Colletti gave a typical Ned Colletti non-answer “It’s probably something we’ll think about.”
Are you kidding me? You are actually going to screw around with possibly losing the greatest left-hander to come along since Sandy Koufax to free agency? Ned, if you let Kershaw get away from the Dodgers, you will be hated in Los Angeles more than Frank McCourt is.
What’s to think about? With a guy like Zack Greinke about to lock down a multi-year / high dollar contract within the next month or so, how can you even consider allowing Kershaw to get anywhere near salary arbitration? Kershaw is a far better pitcher than Greinke, for crying out loud. I mean this is as big of a no-brainer as signing Matt Kemp to his 8-year / $160 million contract extension, and that was done by a complete idiot – the aforementioned Frank McCourt.
Clayton Kershaw needs to be locked down with a long-term contract extension this season, preferably before spring training so that his pending 2014 arbitration does not become a distraction for him. I certainly understand that Kershaw will not come cheap, but he absolutely positively will never come any cheaper than he will right now.
All of this being said, I certainly understand the recent quote by new Dodgers chairman (and money man) Mark Walter: “Pitchers break.” And while no one will dispute this, at some point you have to roll the dice on a long-term contract with a pitcher. If you do not, you will end up with a rotation full of number 4 and 5 guys, which is exactly what the Dodgers have right now after Kershaw. This is the guy that you roll the dice on, Mark – Just Do It!
As Mark Saxon so accurately said in his blog article – “It’s not as if the deadline is upon us, but the closer it gets, the scarier it becomes.”