Under an hour after Carlos Rodon became the first major signing of the 2022 MLB free-agent period, agreeing to a deal with the San Francisco Giants, Clayton Kershaw followed suit, re-signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers for one year. While it was a likely reunion between star and team, this takes yet another top-tier free-agent starting pitcher off the market and leaves little left for teams looking to add to their rotation as the free-agent period continues.
So what does this mean for the left-hander and the Dodgers as we get ready for the 2022 season?
Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers are in agreement on a one-year deal, source confirms. @Ken_Rosenthal had it first.
— Alden González (@Alden_Gonzalez) March 11, 2022
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What to Expect:
A long-time perennial Cy Young candidate, Clayton Kershaw threw 121.2 innings in 2021 before being shut down with a forearm injury. He opted against surgery and instead received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his elbow in October. His plan was to rest and let his elbow heal, hoping he would be ready for opening day; however the lockout has made it increasingly difficult to gauge the status of his recovery. Obviously, the injury dampened Kershaw’s market, so the 33-year-old opted to go back to Los Angeles on a one-year deal to prove he’s healthy and capable of being his elite self again.
When he was pitching in 2021, Kershaw was exactly that. Although his 3.55 ERA was higher than his career numbers, he also allowed a career-high .289 BABIP, which suggests that some of it might have just been bad luck. His barrel rate allowed (6.9%) was only slightly over his career marks, and his 3.10 SIERA and 2.87 xFIP (two popular ERA estimators) were actually better than his 2018 and 2019 numbers.
While Kershaw saw a minor dip in his fastball velocity and overall effectiveness with the pitch, he responded by increasing his slider usage and actually registered a 29.5% strikeout rate and 25.2 K-BB%, which were both the best numbers he’s had since 2017. All of which suggests that Kershaw should still be able to adapt his pitching style as he ages, so long as he is healthy enough to be on the mound.
Fans should certainly expect to see his innings managed, especially if the Dodgers are able to get Trevor Bauer back into their rotation this year as well. The team knows its ultimate goal is to win a World Series, so they will make sure Kershaw is healthy in October, even if that means resting him for games in the early part of the season.
Projected Lineup (or Rotation):
With the signing, the Dodgers rotation looks as follows:
|SP1||Walker Buehler||207.2 IP in 2021||2.47 ERA||212 strikeouts|
|SP2||Julio Urias||185.2 IP||2.96 ERA||195 strikeouts|
|SP3||Clayton Kershaw||121.2 IP||3.55 ERA||144 strikeouts|
|SP4||Tony Gonsolin||55.2 IP||3.23 ERA||65 strikeouts|
|SP5||Andrew Heaney||129.2 IP||5.83 ERA||150 strikeouts|
With Kershaw and Rodon off the market, the biggest pieces left to fall in the starting pitcher landscape are Zack Greinke, Yusei Kikuchi, and Michael Pineda, which aren’t exactly game-changing names. There’s a chance the Dodgers could also add one more starter since Trevor Bauer’s eligibility remains in question and Andrew Heaney hasn’t been a consistent option over the last few years.