The Los Angeles Dodgers fell two wins shy of returning to the World Series to vie for a second straight championship. The disappointing postseason exit has quickly shifted the discussion toward the upcoming offseason decisions the front office must address. Among those is star pitcher Clayton Kershaw as he heads into free agency. All of which begs the question if he’s taken the mound for the final time in a Dodgers uniform.
Clayton Kershaw experiences injury-plagued 2021 season
After helping guide the Dodgers to capture their first World Series title in more than three decades, Kershaw trekked through a tough 2021 season riddled by injuries.
The three-time Cy Young award winner demonstrated that he’s no longer the dominant left-hander he once was but provided much-needed stability. However, he battled through injuries as he served a stint on the injured list due to left forearm inflammation for the first time in his career.
Kershaw missed nearly five weeks, returning in mid-September only to experience more arm pain on Oct. 1. An MRI showed no structural damage, but he was again placed on the injury list and ruled out for the playoffs.
The 33-year-old put forth respectable numbers, holding a 10-8 record with a 3.55 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP, and averaged 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings. His ERA marked the highest since his rookie campaign, while his strikeouts per nine innings was the third-best mark of his career.
As the offseason nears closer, it begs the question of whether he has made his last pitch for the Dodgers.
Has Clayton Kershaw played his last game with the Dodgers?
Throughout Kershaw‘s career, he’s been one of the faces of the franchise.
However, the 33-year-old’s future has become filled with doubt due to injury and declining performance. The star left-hander has brushed off questions concerning his plans, only confirming that he wants to pitch next season.
“I’ve said this before, my future is going take care of itself. I’m not really worried about that right now,” Kershaw said after his Oct. 1 where he suffered a season-ending forearm injury via The LA Times. “I really wanted to be a part of the moment right now … as far as anything else goes, I haven’t wrapped my head around it, and I don’t plan to anytime soon.”
Kershaw holds no intention of addressing his future plans until it’s time to do so. However, it’s no secret he wants to extend his stay in Los Angeles. It’s where he’s spent his entire career while the team continues to contend for the World Series.
The situation shifts to the Dodgers’ willingness to dish out a significant contract to a pitcher showing signs of decline as injuries become more prominent. It’s hard to envision Los Angeles offering anywhere near the $31 million a year as he received in his three-year, $93 million deal.
Ultimately, it will come down to Kershaw taking a sizable pay cut to remain with the Dodgers.
Dodgers holds other massive offseason decisions ahead
Kershaw’s future isn’t the only pressing matter the Dodgers must address.
Los Angeles has other key members of the roster heading into free agency, such as Max Scherzer, Kenley Jansen, Chris Taylor, and Corey Knebel. The front office is likely to place greater importance on each player as other teams could snag any of them away.
After his acquisition, Scherzer proved to be one of the team’s best arms, while Jansen showcased he still has plenty left in the tank to perform at an elite level. Taylor struggled in stretches during the regular season, but he put up strong crucial production in the playoffs. Knebel also provided stable performance out of the bullpen as one of the team’s most reliable relievers.
All that encircles the critical offseason ahead that goes much deeper than Kershaw’s future.