CLAYTON KERSHAW, 25, starting pitcher
Final 2013 stats: 16-9, 1.83 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings, .195 opponent batting average, two shutouts
Contract status: Arbitration eligible (last year).
Let’s face it, all his numbers were great, it was just a matter of degree. Some of his better numbers: left-handed hitters batted .165, had a 1.54 ERA at home, did not have one month where his ERA was higher than 2.65, batters hit .180 with runners in scoring position.
Joined Greg Maddux as the only pitcher in baseball history to lead the majors in ERA for three consecutive seasons. Also led the National League in strikeouts for the second time. Finished seventh in MVP voting.
His win-loss record could have been plenty better, but the Dodgers averaged only 3.79 runs per start (57th in baseball).
A great competitor who excels on the field, in the clubhouse and in the community. Mature well beyond his years. One of the team’s best leaders. Avoided the foot and back injuries from last season.
The bad: Struggled in the National League Championship Series, going 0-2 with a 6.30 ERA in two starts, including his worst outing of the season (four innings, seven earned runs) in the game that ended the Dodgers’ season.
What’s next: More victories, more strikeouts and one fat new contract.
The take: He is headed for the richest contract for a pitcher in baseball history. He’s accomplished so much, yet doesn’t turn 26 until March. He can become a free agent at the end of the 2014 season without a new contract, so discussions figure to heat up prior to spring training.
Kershaw is the Dodgers’ most prized possession, a superstar pitcher who is young and hits all the right notes on and off the field. He’s someone you build a team around.
The Dodgers can’t afford to lose him to free agency, something Kershaw coyly acknowledged intrigues him. See, he’s also highly intelligent.
The Dodgers’ new ownership spent without hesitation its first full year owning the club, but with Kershaw (and Hanley Ramirez) looking for mega deals, their payroll is still headed upward.