Rangers disappointed to not get Clayton Kershaw. But what about next year?

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw warms up during a spring training workout March 13 in Phoenix.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw warms up during a spring training workout Sunday in Phoenix. Kershaw considered joining his hometown Texas Rangers before signing a one-year deal worth $17 million guaranteed to return to the Dodgers.
(Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

In Chris Woodward’s utopia, Clayton Kershaw would’ve reported to camp with the Texas Rangers on Sunday. The future Hall of Famer would’ve been the final piece of the franchise’s spending spree, the finishing touch to an offseason committed to cementing the foundation for a turnaround. He probably would’ve been the Rangers’ ace. He definitely would’ve been a welcomed clubhouse presence.

But the left-hander wasn’t with the Rangers in Surprise, Ariz. He was in Phoenix again for his 15th season with the Dodgers.

“He could’ve been really valuable for us,” Woodward, the Rangers’ manager, said Monday. “There’s no question — on and off the field.”

The Rangers were willing to give Kershaw more years, more money, and a chance play home games 20 minutes from his house in Dallas. But Kershaw decided to return to the Dodgers, signing a one-year deal worth $17 million guaranteed with more money available through incentives.


The decision was never a foregone conclusion. As long as Kershaw was healthy — his 2021 season ended early with an elbow injury — he wasn’t going to retire. And both teams were in play. The Rangers’ chances were real. The Dodgers knew it. The Rangers knew it. The three-month lockout, which prohibited communication between teams and players, left the two suitors in the dark, stoking the mystery while Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, considered the options.

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In the end, minutes after the stoppage was lifted, Kershaw immediately informed the clubs of his choice. The Dodgers were thrilled to keep a franchise icon and maintain rotation depth. The Rangers were disappointed to not add another catalyst in their attempt to emerge as a legitimate contender. But Kershaw’s decision didn’t close the door on pitching for the Rangers in the future.

“He said he’ll definitely think about coming back and not to forget about him,” Woodward said. “I haven’t actually spoken to him personally. He reached out to [Rangers general manager Chris Young] right away. So, I respected that. I appreciated that.

“And I think after this year, we’ll definitely probably always have a desire to want Clayton Kershaw on our team.”

Young, a former major league pitcher, is a close friend of Kershaw. Woodward, a former Dodgers third base coach, said he reached out. So did shortstop Corey Seager, who left the Dodgers to sign a 10-year deal with the Rangers two days before the work stoppage.

“You lay it out there for him, but it’s his choice,” Seager said. “He’s been around long enough. He kind of knows what he wants, he knows what to expect. And I was just happy to see him come back and I was just happy to see him healthy, knowing what was kind of going on.

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw signs autographs after a spring training workout Sunday in Phoenix.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw signs autographs after a spring training workout Sunday in Phoenix.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

“There was always those doubts and questions if he was going to play, but him being healthy and being out there is really good for baseball and it’s exciting for the Dodgers to have him back. We would have loved to have him here, but it didn’t work out.”

That doesn’t mean it can’t in the future.

Kershaw’s one-year contract means the Rangers will have another swing at him next winter when he’s 34. He said Sunday it’s “really cool” when players spend their entire career with one team. But he added it didn’t “play a big role” in his decision.

Ultimately, he said, his decision came down to the Dodgers having a better chance to win a World Series and Ellen signing off on another year in Los Angeles with their growing family, which added a fourth child in December. The Dodgers are projected to win the National League West title for the ninth time in 10 seasons. The Rangers lost 102 games last season and haven’t been to the playoffs since 2016.

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“At the end of the day, I respect it,” Woodward said. “I don’t hold any hard feelings or anything. He obviously gave his reasons. I’m a little biased. I think we still have a chance to win a World Series. But that’s obviously not a bad reason to go back for one more year. But he told us, basically, right away. And that’s the integrity of Clayton Kershaw shining through, always.”

In the meantime, the Rangers will attempt to prove they’re for real as the Dodgers vie for the World Series with a familiar left-hander. For at least another summer, Kershaw is a Dodger.