The Dodgers offered some readability on the subject of their decimated rotation on Friday, although maybe not in essentially the most reassuring method. First, the staff reportedly declined Lance Lynn’s $18 million choice, after which Clayton Kershaw introduced by way of Instagram that he had undergone shoulder surgical procedure that morning, with hopes of a return to play “sooner or later subsequent summer season.” As if that didn’t elevate sufficient questions, the three-time Cy Younger winner and future Corridor of Famer did nothing to tip his hand concerning whether or not he’d search a return to the Dodgers.
After we final noticed the 35-year-old Kershaw in motion, he was leaving the mound after retiring simply one of many eight Diamondbacks he confronted within the Division Sequence opener. As a result of the Dodgers have been swept within the best-of-five sequence, he didn’t get an opportunity to take one other flip, although supervisor Dave Roberts had deliberate to ship him out for Recreation 4 had the staff prolonged the sequence. Requested within the rapid aftermath of the staff’s elimination what would come subsequent for him, Kershaw responded cryptically, saying, “I don’t know methods to reply that proper now.”
Kershaw’s incapacity to articulate his plans on the time was comprehensible, partly as a result of for the third 12 months in a row he was headed in the direction of free company, with an opportunity to go away the one group he’s recognized since being drafted out of Highland Park Excessive Faculty in Dallas in 2006. Up to now two winters, he had given some consideration to pitching nearer to house with the Rangers, however selected to return to the Dodgers after the 2021 season, signing a one-year, $17 million contract after the lockout resulted in March ’22, after which re-upping for one 12 months and $20 million final December. Although he missed the 2021 postseason on account of forearm discomfort, Kershaw didn’t have any health-related query marks hanging over his head by the point he re-signed both of these offers. This time, he’s in uncharted territory.
Kershaw pitched to a 2.46 ERA in 131.2 innings this 12 months and made his tenth NL All-Star staff, however earlier than he might pitch within the All-Star Recreation, he landed on the injured record with left shoulder soreness and missed six weeks. When he returned, he threw simply 36.1 innings in eight post-injury begins, and all through that run, each the pitcher and the staff tiptoed across the topic of what was really occurring in his dinged wing. “He’s going to maintain going till he can’t,” mentioned Roberts in a typical replace, this one after a tough September 5 begin during which Kershaw walked 5 and allowed three runs in 5 innings in opposition to the Marlins. “I feel the hope is he’s going to proceed to really feel higher, however given the place he’s at bodily, it’s exhausting to say that’s going to occur.”
Kershaw’s shoulder concern compromised each his velocity and his command. He misplaced 2.7 mph on his month-to-month common four-seam fastball velocity from June (91.3 mph) to September (88.6), and by the pitch-modeling metrics, the standard of his stuff was approach, approach down:
Clayton Kershaw by way of Stuff+ and PitchingBot
|Stuff+||Stf+ FA||Stf+ SL||Stf+ CU||Stuff+||Location+||Pitching+|
Stuff+ scores are normalized to a mean of 100, PitchingBot scores are normalized to a 20–80 scouting scale.
Unsurprisingly, Kershaw’s peripherals suffered, along with his strikeout price falling off, his stroll price rising, and his house run price hovering. Someway, regardless of all of that in addition to a lot tougher contact, his ERA really dropped:
Clayton Kershaw 2023 Pre- and Submit-Damage
Even so, Kershaw completed with profession worsts in FIP, xERA, and barrel price, along with his stroll price his highest since 2010. Now no less than we now have some inkling why. In his Instagram publish, Kershaw mentioned the surgical procedure, finished by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, was to restore the glenohumeral ligaments and capsule of his left shoulder:
Clayton Kershaw had left shoulder surgical procedure this morninghttps://t.co/yonq85Q2NE pic.twitter.com/bxgs0M8hVK
— Eric Stephen (@ericstephen) November 3, 2023
The three glenohumeral ligaments (superior, center, and inferior) join the scapula to the humerus. Successfully, they stabilize the ball of the higher arm bone inside the socket of the shoulder blade. The capsule surrounds the joint and is strengthened by the rotator cuff muscle tissues.
Although he has hung out on the injured record in every of the previous eight seasons — extra usually for decrease again woes than for arm issues — that is the primary time in Kershaw’s skilled profession that he’s undergone surgical procedure. As greatest we are able to inform from the minimal particulars provided, the surgical procedure doesn’t appear to be immediately associated to his rotator cuff or labrum; such surgical procedures would possibly put him out of motion for a complete season. Capsule surgical procedure is not any small matter, nonetheless, so it’s hardly out of the query that he may very well be sidelined for a full season as effectively, if there are setbacks in his rehab. The excellent news is that doesn’t appear to be the baseline assumption.
That mentioned, a return to All-Star type shouldn’t be the baseline assumption, both. Whether or not it’s for the Dodgers, who’ve precisely one starter who threw greater than 70 innings for them in 2023 (Bobby Miller) returning for ’24, or one other staff, it’s not a on condition that Kershaw might approximate the 127 innings he’s averaged over the previous three seasons, not to mention the two.75 ERA, 3.21 FIP, or 3.2 WAR. Thus it could make extra sense for the staff signing him to suppose by way of a two-year take care of some bells and whistles — incentives, escalators, choices — given so many unknowns. It’s additionally potential that Kershaw might wait till he’s additional alongside in his rehab, or no less than has deliberated longer, earlier than committing to a staff.
As for the potential of his becoming a member of the Rangers — who have been in a a lot completely different place throughout their earlier flirtations with Kershaw than they’re now — they’re lined as much as spend a fairly penny on beginning pitching, although it’s a rotation with its share of query marks. They’re “solely” paying $22.5 million of Max Scherzer’s $43.3 million wage, with the Mets choosing up the remaining, however he’s heading into his age-39 season, has totaled simply 50 begins previously two seasons, and was a shaky proposition throughout this previous postseason. The staff can be paying Jacob deGrom $40 million as he rehabs from his second Tommy John surgical procedure, plus $16 million for Nathan Eovaldi, and $13 million apiece for Jon Grey and Andrew Heaney. The Rangers will possible let Martín Pérez stroll in free company; he accepted a $19.65 million qualifying supply after his first All-Star season final 12 months, however regressed significantly and wound up within the bullpen after the commerce deadline. Midseason acquisition Jordan Montgomery is a free agent as effectively, and is prone to land an enormous elevate from the $10 million he made in 2023.
Through RosterResource, the Rangers’ payroll is at $219.1 million for Aggressive Steadiness Tax functions, leaving them lower than $18 million under the primary tax threshold. If Kershaw desires to pitch for them, absolutely they’ll discover a technique to make the deal work, simply because the Dodgers will. Los Angeles “solely” has $159.3 million dedicated for tax functions however a for much longer historical past of paying the CBT; the staff was barely beneath the second threshold of $253 million in 2023.
Past the contract stuff, the damage has stalled Kershaw’s pursuit of a serious milestone, in all probability the final one inside his attain. He’s 56 strikeouts away from turning into the twentieth pitcher to succeed in 3,000 strikeouts, and could be simply the fourth lefty to achieve that mark after Steve Carlton, Randy Johnson, and CC Sabathia. Former teammate Zack Greinke is 21 strikeouts away from 3,000, and will beat Kershaw to the milestone if he decides to pitch in 2024; each would be a part of Scherzer and Justin Verlander among the many lively pitchers at that plateau, although even when they wind up falling brief, it received’t have an effect on their eventual election into the Corridor of Fame, virtually actually on the primary poll.
Finally, Kershaw will probably be sporting a Dodgers cap on his plaque, however he’ll need to determine whether or not he desires to be the uncommon Corridor of Famer to have spent his total profession with one staff. Solely six Corridor of Fame hurlers whose careers began after World Battle II spent their careers with only one staff, two of them with the Dodgers, particularly Sandy Koufax (1955–66) and Don Drysdale (1956-69); the others are Whitey Ford (Yankees 1950–57), Bob Gibson (Cardinals 1959–75), Jim Palmer (Orioles 1965–84), and Mariano Rivera (Yankees 1995–2013).
As for Lynn, who was an All-Star as not too long ago as 2021 and a dependable, well-traveled workhorse for years earlier than that, the information of his choice being declined on the finish of his two-year, $38 million deal hardly comes as a shock. The 36-year-old righty was lit for a 6.47 ERA and 5.19 IP in 119.2 innings with the White Sox earlier than being traded to the Dodgers as a part of a five-player deal on July 28. He was the one rotation improve the staff acquired forward of the deadline, a puzzling determination on condition that Kershaw was on the injured record alongside Walker Buehler, who was rehabbing from a second Tommy John surgical procedure, and Dustin Might, who had undergone season-ending surgical procedure to restore his flexor tendon and revise his earlier Tommy John surgical procedure.
With a reconfigured arsenal — extra four-seamers and curves, fewer cutters — Lynn discovered fast success after the commerce, permitting simply 5 runs in 25 innings throughout his first 4 begins. Quickly, nonetheless, the combo reverted to one thing nearer to what it had been on the South Facet, and so did the outcomes; he had a 6.23 ERA and seven.59 FIP over his final seven begins, and except for his ERA, his key numbers wound up worse post-trade:
Lance Lynn 2023 Pre- and Submit-Commerce
Lynn’s house run price not solely led all ERA qualifiers, it was the second-highest of any full-season AL/NL qualifier in historical past, behind solely Jose Lima (2.20 per 9 for the 2000 Astros). Lynn’s 44 homers allowed was essentially the most by any pitcher in 12 years, and tied for the sixth-highest single-season whole:
Most Residence Runs Allowed in a Season
Oy. And all of that was earlier than Lynn allowed 4 solo homers within the third inning of Recreation 3 of the NLDS, the coup de grâce for the Dodgers’ season. As you may think, ZiPS is fairly cautious of the large righty’s future. Right here’s the projection from Dan Szymborski:
ZiPS Projection (Prelim) – Lance Lynn
The ZiPS contract suggestion for that could be a one-year, $6.8 million deal, a bit over one-third the worth of the choice the Dodgers declined. The transfer doesn’t rule out the chance that they re-sign Lynn for a decrease wage — his capacity to eat innings is price one thing, as is the chance that the Dodgers might coax a greater efficiency out of him with a full season to work with him. However after this 12 months’s Noah Syndergaard debacle, the staff may be in search of extra certainty and a better ceiling.
Neither of Friday’s strikes totally rule out Kershaw or Lynn pitching for the Dodgers in 2024, and at this stage, the latter is one thing of an afterthought. The true intrigue will probably be what Kershaw decides and when he returns, and it’s prone to be awhile earlier than we now have solutions to each of these questions.