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Will Clayton Kershaw be the First $200 Million Pitcher?

In March, Justin Verlander signed a five-year, $140 million dollar extension. Add the two years, $40 million he had remaining under contract he signed in 2009 and he is the highest paid pitcher in baseball history.

Verlander, however, is not the only pitcher to recently sign a large, long-term contract. Below is a list of several recent deals that have netted pitchers a big pay-day.

  1. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners (7 years, $175 million)
  2. CC Sabathia, New York Yankees (5 years, $122 million)
  3. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers (6 years, $147 million)
  4. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies (6 years, $144 million)
  5. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers (7 years, $180 million)

Perhaps the best left-handed pitcher in baseball, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw may be the next addition to this list. In fact, he has the chance to be the first $200 million pitcher in baseball. Kershaw, 25, has been a staple in the Dodgers rotation since he was 20. As of March 28, he holds a career record of 64-39 with a 2.75 ERA. He won the NL Cy Young in 2011 as well as the NL ERA leader in 2011 and 2012.

Clayton KershawFellow lefty Cole Hamels is Kershaw’s best comparison. As noted above, Hamels signed a six-year, $147 million extension in 2012 at the age of 28. Although Hamels has enjoyed similar success, he has been nowhere near as dominant as Kershaw. With that being said, Kershaw should far surpass Hamels’ current contract.

Aside from his ridiculous numbers, when Kershaw signs an extension, he will be younger than any of the pitchers on the list at the time of their extension. After the 2013 season, he will have one arbitration year left before he is eligible to become a free agent. At 25, he is still three years away from considered to be in his prime. As a result, he should be able to command a long-term contract (7-9 years). With a seven year contract, I would expect something closer to Verlander’s current deal with an average annual value around $25 million. At nine years, however, it is very possible he comes close or eclipses the $200 million mark.

Whether the Dodgers lock him up to a long-term deal before he becomes a free agent remains to be seen. Regardless, he stands a real chance to become the highest paid pitcher in history.

Contract information courtesy of Baseball Prospectus

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