Will Clayton Kershaw return to the Dodgers? Probably

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
Clayton Kershaw during Game 2 of the NLDS on Wednesday against the Padres.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Clayton Kershaw spent his final minutes in a Dodgers uniform in 2022 with a bottle of Pacifico in his hand Saturday night. While his teammates showered and changed, scrambling to leave Petco Park, he remained in his gray baseball pants and a Dodgers hoodie. He wore his cap backward. He wasn’t in a rush to leave after the Dodgers’ season-ending loss to the San Diego Padres.

Whether he’ll ever wear the uniform again is one of the many storylines that will shape the Dodgers’ offseason. As of late Saturday, it appears as though Kershaw, a free agent this winter, will return.

“I think so,” Kershaw, 34, said when asked about if he will play next season. “We’ll see what happens. Going home and being around and being a full-time dad changes your perspective on things, but, as of right now, I will say I’ll play again.”


Kershaw was less certain about his future a year ago. Last October, he was dealing with a major elbow injury. He wasn’t sure how healthy he’d be to pitch in 2022. Then there was the prospect of signing with his hometown Texas Rangers — a very real possibility he considered.

A Dodgers lead in Game 4 of the National League Division Series vanished amid poor execution and puzzling decision-making in a 5-3 loss to the Padres.

Oct. 16, 2022

Ultimately, Kershaw was told he’d be ready for the start of the season and chose to re-sign with the Dodgers. He signed a one-year contract worth $17 million plus incentives the day after the lockout ended in March.

He then proceeded to log seven perfect innings with 13 strikeouts in his season-opening start against the Minnesota Twins. He made his ninth All-Star Game, starting for the National League at Dodger Stadium, and was one of the best pitchers in the majors when healthy.

Two back injuries, however, landed him on the injured list twice for a month each, limiting him to 126-1/3 innings over 22 starts during the regular season. The second stint began in August, giving him enough time to return at the beginning of September and prepare for the postseason.

He yielded three runs and six hits over five innings in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Padres and was ready to pitch out of the bullpen in a winner-take-all Game 5 on Sunday at Dodger Stadium. But that game isn’t happening. The Dodgers’ season is over, another October ending in bitter disappointment. But Kershaw’s career in Los Angeles doesn’t appear to be.


Kershaw would return with 197 career wins, three shy of a milestone just three active players (Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Max Scherzer) have accomplished. He’s 13 shy of surpassing Don Drysdale for second on the Dodgers’ all-time wins list. Reaching Don Sutton’s 233 victories before retirement appears unlikely. Kershaw is already the Dodgers’ all-time WAR leader, which suggests he is the greatest player in franchise history. He ranks first in strikeouts. He is a future Hall of Famer.

But he has only one World Series title on his résumé. All indications are he’ll give himself the chance to win at least one more championship.

Barely a week after setting a franchise record with 111 regular-season victories, the Dodgers see their season end in an NLDS loss to the Padres.

Oct. 16, 2022