The thought of Clayton Kershaw not being a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers is difficult to fathom. However, it could be a reality in the coming months with the team having a bevy of promising young pitchers and Kershaw missing a considerable amount of starts over the past six years.
At the same time, Kershaw remains a steady force when he’s healthy. He has a menacing slider, effectively deploys his fastball, logs strikeouts at a high rate and is battle-tested in postseason play. The southpaw is a perfect signing for an MLB contender in search of a veteran hurler.
Here are three ideal free agent destinations for Clayton Kershaw.
Related: Top MLB free agents of the winter
3. Clayton Kershaw adds flair to the Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies were relatively quiet before the MLB lockout and still have holes to fill. Kershaw presents an opportunity for them to beef up their rotation while relying on their offensive nucleus to come through in 2022.
Manager Joe Girardi’s starting rotation is a mixed bunch. On one hand, Zack Wheeler has been a bonafide ace and one of the best starting pitchers in the sport in his two seasons with the Phillies. Meanwhile, left-hander Ranger Suarez was an encouraging development towards the end of the 2021 regular season.
On the other hand, Aaron Nola has regressed in performance, Zach Eflin made just 18 starts last season and mid-season pickup Kyle Gibson struggled in his two months with the Phillies. There’s upside in this aspect of their ballclub, as Nola and Gibson are capable of better performance and Suarez could build on his brief starting success. That said, these aren’t givens.
- Clayton Kershaw stats (2021): 3.55 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 144 strikeouts across 121.2 innings (24 starts)
One knows what they’re getting from Kershaw. He’d be a stabilizing force near the top of the Phillies’ rotation who helps make up for any loose ends that may arise during the season while providing them with a starting pitcher with postseason experience.
All that being said, the Phillies may prefer to bank on Nola and Gibson bouncing back while utilizing payroll on a starting outfielder or two.
2. Clayton Kershaw goes ring chasing with the Chicago White Sox
While winning the World Series is the end game for the White Sox, they first have to win a playoff series with their mostly homegrown core leading the way. Kershaw has held up the Commissioner’s Trophy before and would give the White Sox a veteran who fills a void in their rotation.
At the moment, Carlos Rodon, who was spectacular last season, remains a free agent. Given the success he had in 2021, most notably recording a 2.37 ERA, another team may be willing to give Rodon more money than the White Sox given the organization having to weigh extensions for some of their premier players like Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito. This is what leads to a short-term pact with Kershaw.
The career-long Dodger would join a rotation that includes Giolito, Lance Lynn, Dylan Cease and Dallas Keuchel. It would be a combination that features veterans on the back nine of their careers, a young stud and an improving young starter.
- Clayton Kershaw contract prediction: two-year, $40 million deal
The White Sox lose little, if anything going from Rodon to Kershaw while preserving long-term payroll. Working under the mindset that the White Sox have a better overall offensive showing in the playoffs, they’d have a roster that’s poised to make more headway.
What could stop Kershaw from joining the White Sox, however, is the front office viewing Rodon as an integral part of their future and therefore re-signing him.
1. Clayton Kershaw to the Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox had a wild run to the ALCS last season and will surely operate with the expectation of contending for the AL pennant once again next season. Kershaw fits that pursuit.
Boston’s rotation gradually improved as 2021 progressed, but there was never a point where that unit was dominant. Moving forward, it’s difficult to say they will be dominant as currently constructed. Chris Sale, 32, hasn’t pitched a full season since 2017. While he has shown promise, Tanner Houck has just 16 regular season starts under his belt. Nick Pivetta and Michael Wacha are shaky. Rich Hill is 41. James Paxton has been held back by injuries. Nathan Eovaldi is a clutch pitcher but can be inconsistent.
Kershaw isn’t a sure thing himself, as he too has been hit by injuries. At the same time, he gives manager Alex Cora more depth and more importantly improves their rotation. Some of the veteran starters that the Red Sox have already signed can take on long-relief roles and slide into the rotation if injuries occur. Plus, if Houck builds on his 2021 success and Sale stays healthy, all of a sudden the Red Sox could have a top-10 rotation.
Boston is loaded offensively, as the likes of Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Bobby Dalbec and others make for one of the elite lineups in baseball. They’re going to be providing considerable run support on a nightly basis. The Red Sox need to get a reliable starting rotation.
This is a win-now ballclub, and rightfully so, especially considering the loaded nature of the AL East. Signing Kershaw is a win-now move that enhances the Red Sox’ pennant chances and gives Kershaw the chance to compete for another championship.