Clayton Kershaw had a great day Thursday, no matter what he did.
The bar for his next contract was set even higher, with Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners agreeing on a seven-year, $175-million deal. That could put Kershaw in position to become the first pitcher in baseball history with a $200-million contract.
Kershaw, 24, the Dodgers' ace, is two years younger than Hernandez and two years from free agency. Hernandez won the American League Cy Young Award in 2010 and finished second in 2009; Kershaw won the NL Cy Young Award in 2011 and finished second in 2012.
The Dodgers have Kershaw under contract this year at $11 million and under control -- at a salary to be determined -- in 2014. The Dodgers are expected to discuss a long-term contract extension with Kershaw in the very near future.
If Kershaw re-signs with the Dodgers for an average annual salary greater than the $25 million in Hernandez's new contract, the team could have five players -- Kershaw, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp and Zack Greinke -- making a combined $115 million as soon as 2014.
The Dodgers' 25-man opening-day payroll last year: $95 million.
The Hernandez contract offers further evidence of the robust financial health of baseball, and of the success of its revenue-sharing program.
Consider these substantial signings within the last three years: Albert Pujols ($240 million) by the Angels, Joey Votto ($225 million) by the Cincinnati Reds; Prince Fielder ($214 million) by the Detroit Tigers; Joe Mauer ($184 million) by the Minnesota Twins; Hernandez ($175 million) by the Mariners; Kemp ($160 million) by the Dodgers; Troy Tulowitzki ($158 million) by the Colorado Rockies; Greinke ($147 million) by the Dodgers; Cole Hamels ($144 million) by the Philadelphia Phillies; David Wright ($138 million) by the New York Mets; Matt Cain ($128 million) by the San Francisco Giants.
The New York Yankees are not on that list.
USA Today first reported the new contract for Hernandez.