Andrew Friedman says Dodgers ‘really want’ to work things out with Clayton Kershaw

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw sits in the dugout after suffering a season-ending injury.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw sits in the dugout after suffering a season-ending injury against the Milwaukee Brewers on Oct. 1.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Texas Rangers are expected to aggressively pursue Clayton Kershaw this winter and can offer the free-agent left-hander something the Dodgers can’t — a chance for the three-time Cy Young Award winner to play near his Dallas-area home and not have to uproot his family every spring.

The Dodgers, despite not extending an $18.4-million qualifying offer to the franchise icon, do not intend to go down without a fight.

“We really want Kersh to come back — not only because of what he’s meant to us looking back, but what he’ll mean for us going forward,” Andrew Friedman, the team’s president of baseball operations, said Tuesday on the first day of general manager meetings.

“That being said … he has to figure out what’s best for him and his family. There’s a personal and professional tug of war for me. Professionally, I really hope he’s back. Personally, I want him to do what makes the most sense for his family, and we’ll figure out what that means.”


Kershaw, 33, has played his entire 14-year career in Los Angeles, building a Hall of Fame resume that includes a 185-84 record and 2.49 earned-run average, 2,670 strikeouts, one National League most-valuable-player award to go with his Cy Young awards, eight All-Star selections and five ERA titles.

Andrew Heaney, who struggled on the mound with the Angels and New York Yankees last season, agrees to a one-year, $8.5-million deal with the Dodgers.

Nov. 8, 2021

But the Dodgers did not sign Kershaw to a contract extension this season, and Kershaw, whose three-year, $93-million deal expired after the Dodgers lost the NL Championship Series to the Atlanta Braves, did not express a desire to finish out his career in Los Angeles or to leave.

Clouding Kershaw’s future and free agency is an elbow injury that sidelined him for 10 weeks from July to September as well as the entire postseason. Kershaw, who described the injury as a “flexor [tendon] issue,” received a platelet-rich plasma injection in October, but major league pitchers have had mixed results with the procedure. Shohei Ohtani, Andrew Heaney, Garrett Richards and Chris Sale are among the current pitchers who had PRP injections, only to later have Tommy John surgery.

Kershaw will turn 34 next spring and has racked up some serious mileage, having thrown 2,454-2/3 regular-season innings and the equivalent of another full season — 189 innings in 37 games — in the playoffs.

But Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said in October that scans showed no damage to Kershaw’s ulnar collateral ligament, and the team is confident Kershaw will return to full strength.

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws during the first inning.
Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws during the first inning on Sept. 1.
(Associated Press)

Kershaw pitched well when he was healthy, going 10-8 with a 3.55 ERA in 22 starts, striking out 144 and walking 21 in 121-2/3 innings.

“We believe that he is going to be healthy and ready to go on opening day,” said Friedman, who added that Kershaw has not started throwing. “From his standpoint, he wants to get there and get throwing and get off the mound.”

The Dodgers already have about $207 million in payroll counting against the luxury-tax threshold, and they plan to pursue several players from their list of high-profile free agents, which includes shortstop Corey Seager, pitcher Max Scherzer, closer Kenley Jansen and All-Star utility man Chris Taylor.

It seems risky to guarantee a hefty one- or two-year deal to a starting pitcher who could break down next spring. A contract with lower base salaries and lucrative incentives for games started would make more sense for the Dodgers.

“Hopefully we’re able to roll up our sleeves with him and figure that out, and we’re very optimistic we’ll be able to figure that out,” Friedman said. “If he wants to come back, we definitely want him back.”

The rebuilding Rangers, who went 60-102 and finished 35 games out in the American League West, have a comparable payroll number of only $40.5 million, so they can afford to gamble on Kershaw. They also can tug on Kershaw’s heartstrings.

Kershaw played baseball and football at Highland Park High in the North Dallas suburb of University Park, Texas, and lives there in the offseason with his wife, Ellen, and three children, Cali (6), Charley (5) and Cooper (1½). Kershaw is also a close friend of Rangers general manager Chris Young.

Dodger Stadium will be the site of a winter festival with ice skating, Santa, and holiday light and music shows.

Nov. 8, 2021

The Dodgers can appeal to Kershaw’s insatiable desire to win. They’ve won eight division titles in nine years, played in the 2017 and 2018 World Series and won the 2020 championship. They also can offer Kershaw the chance to play his entire career with one of baseball’s most storied franchises.

“If he wants to come back, we will absolutely work together to make that happen,” Friedman said. “And if he doesn’t, for whatever reason, he’s earned that right, that prerogative. He is going to drive a lot of what he wants to do next year. The ball is in his court.”

Avoiding limbo

Roberts, entering the final year of the four-year extension he signed before 2019, said after the season that he was “kind of expecting, hoping,” that the Dodgers would make another contract offer so he can avoid being a lame-duck manager next year.

The interest appears to be mutual, but discussions regarding a possible extension have not begun, and Roberts’ contract does not appear to be a front-burner issue for the club.

“I said this at the beginning of the offseason — he’s been a big part of what we have accomplished looking back, and I expect him to be a big part of what we accomplish looking forward,” Friedman said of Roberts, the target of constant criticism despite leading the Dodgers to five division titles, one World Series title and three NL pennants in six years.

“For us, we have a lot of near-term things, with people who we aren’t sure are going to be here, that we’re working through. I’m sure it’s something we’ll have conversations on at some point.”

Short hops

Any talks with Jansen, who bounced back from three subpar seasons to go 4-4 with a 2.22 ERA and 38 saves in 69 games, striking out 86 and walking 36 in 69 innings, will come with assurances that the 34-year-old right-hander will retain his closing role. “For me, if he’s back, it would be in the ninth inning,” Friedman said. … Dustin May, who underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery in May, has begun his throwing program, and Friedman said the hard-throwing right-hander is on track to return after the All-Star break or in August.