LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers wasted no time in getting the Hall of Famer to return for a 16th season as the two sides are finalizing a one-year deal, sources told MLB.com on Thursday.
The terms of the deal are still being discussed. The club has not confirmed the move.
The Dodgers did not extend Kershaw a qualifying offer before Thursday’s deadline, but president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman made it clear that bringing the lefty back was “a priority” for the team this offseason. A few hours into free agency, Kershaw’s free agency came to an end.
“Things feel better in the world when Kershaw is wearing a Dodgers uniform,” Friedman said during the General Managers Meetings in Las Vegas. “That’s how it is with us, but we couldn’t respect him and Ellen more for going through this process.”
Last winter, Kershaw’s future was much more uncertain. Kershaw didn’t pick up a baseball until January after finishing the season on the disabled list with a forearm injury. His three options were to play for the Dodgers, join the Rangers so he could be near his family, or retire in case his forearm didn’t heal as well as he hoped.
Before the end of the 2022 season, Kershaw confirmed that he wanted to play at least one more season. He will sign a one-year deal for the rest of his career, keeping his options open. There was a chance he could sign with the Rangers, but with the way the Dodgers played during the regular season, Kershaw wanted back.
The Dodgers didn’t offer Kershaw a qualifying offer because they didn’t want to rush his decision. But Kershaw was ready to return to the Dodgers, the only place he’s known as a major leaguer. Once Kershaw takes the ball next season, he will become the second Dodger to go 16 seasons with the organization, joining Hall of Famer Don Sutton, who also played parts of 16 seasons in LA.
Kershaw was one of the most effective pitchers in the National League last season, going 12-3 with a 2.28 ERA over 22 starts. He made his ninth All-Star team and started the Midsummer Classic for the first time in his career at Dodger Stadium. The right-hander missed two months with a pair of back injuries, something Kershaw will have to monitor for the rest of his career.
Adding Kershaw early in the offseason gives the Dodgers more clarity on what their starting pitching situation will look like next season. Julio Urías, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin are the other three starters in the rotation. Ryan Pepiot, Michael Grove, Gavin Stone and Bobby Miller will all serve as depth options.
Friedman said adding early game was “highly” on the agenda. They acted quickly and Kershaw is staying home for at least one more season.