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Clayton Kershaw on baseball’s free-agent freeze: ‘It’s not great for the game’

Clayton Kershaw on baseball’s free-agent freeze: ‘It’s not great for the game’
Clayton Kershaw (Jae Hong / Associated Press)

Spring training kicked off for several teams across the majors Tuesday with Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and several other high-profile players still unsigned on the free-agent market, extending a trend from last year that has placed the sport’s future in question and spawned increasing public criticism from veteran major leaguers. Add Clayton Kershaw to the growing list of star players perplexed by the sport’s free-agent freeze the last two winters.

“It’s not great for the game by any means,” Kershaw said on Tuesday. “We got two guys that are 26-year-old superstars in the game. Obviously, I don’t know either side. I don’t know what’s going on on their side, what kind of offers they’ve been given. But you’d like to see them signed as well as the other 100 or so guys that deserve a spot.”

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Kershaw, 30, could have opted out of his contract and tested the choppy free-agent waters this winter. Instead, he and the Dodgers agreed to add a year to the two remaining on his deal five days after the club’s season ended with a loss in the World Series.

The contract guarantees him $93 million over the three seasons with more millions available through incentives; the only free agent to secure more money this offseason was Patrick Corbin, who signed a six-year, $140-million deal with the Washington Nationals. The second most expensive free-agent signing was the four-year, $67.5-million Nathan Eovaldi received to return to the Boston Red Sox. A.J. Pollock’s $55-million guaranteed over four years is next.

Harper and Machado are expected to surpass Corbin’s payday, while Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel will also sign for substantial money. But it’s mid-February and those four — and dozens of others — are still waiting. Their peers, including the Dodgers’ ace, are taking notice.

“I think there is some concern, for sure,” Kershaw said. “I think players are seeing it more and more, two years in a row, two offseasons in a row. And, yeah, I think we’re definitely all aware of what’s going on, and I think we’re definitely starting to talk about it more as a union and trying to understand what’s going on, how to solve the problem, and all those types of good talks need to happen.”

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