For the second-straight season, the Los Angeles Dodgers and their ace Clayton Kershaw, have come up short in the World Series after dropping Game 5 to the Boston Red Sox 5-1 on Sunday night.
It marks the fourth time in the past six years that the Dodgers have lost in the NLCS or later as the notion that this franchise can’t win the big game continues to gain traction.
Kershaw was on the losing end of Boston’s World Series-clinching victory in which he allowed four runs in seven innings while striking out just five, a very un-Kershaw-like outing.
But it has become a theme for one of the greatest pitchers of this generation, though that might be a label tabbed for the regular season only. In 11 years, he owns a 153-69 record with 2,275 strikeouts, a 2.39 career ERA, three Cy Young Awards and a National League MVP title.
In 24 postseason starts though, the 30-year-old lefty is 9-10 with a 4.32 ERA, including the 2018 World Series in which he posted a 7.36 ERA over two starts (11 innings).
The postseason struggles while coming so close to a title without attaining one is likely to heap on plenty of frustration on Kershaw’s shoulders.
“There’s only one team that can win and we know that, but it just hurts worse when you make it all the way and get second place,” he said (h/t MLB.com). “So having done that two years in a row now, it doesn’t make it any easier.”
So much so, in fact, that a change of scenery could be what the doctor ordered for the southpaw.
And Kershaw holds all the cards.
For both the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Kershaw owns a player option in his contract where he is owed a combined $65 million, which is one of the richest contracts in the majors. While that kind of money would be difficult to opt out of, the promise of winning a World Series where he isn’t the focal point of a franchise could be enough to lure him away from Los Angeles.
“I’ve got three days now to think about all of that stuff before anything happens,” Kershaw said. “So it will be an eventful three days for me, and I’ll try to figure it out.”
Should he opt out and become a free agent, Kershaw will catapult his way to the top of Major League Baseball’s free-agent list where there will be pitcher-needy franchises desperate to make their pitch.
Clayton Kershaw and the New York Yankees
As always — whether it’s Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, or now Kershaw — the New York Yankees are going to be initially linked to the free agent in question. It wouldn’t be an over-exaggeration if New York made Kershaw its top priority this winter.
The Yankees are in desperate need of big-time pitching as the starting rotation was the Achilles heel of the powerful, 100-win ball club that crashed out of the ALDS against the Red Sox.
Luis Severino is proving that he might not be the ace the Yankees were expecting after a down second half and difficult postseason. Yet he is one of the only givens the Yankees have as Masahiro Tanaka has been inconsistent while battling injuries, Sonny Gray is on the trading block, and CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ are headed to free agency.
That leaves the Yankees with just Severino, Tanaka, and Jordan Montgomery (returning from Tommy John surgery) heading into this winter.
Kershaw would immediately bring legitimacy to the Yankees rotation, though New York would likely have to go over the luxury tax that they oh so badly wanted to stay under. It’s a small price to pay should it result in one of the finest pitchers the game has ever seen and one who will be hungry to finally get his World Series ring.
After all, the clock is ticking on that golden left arm of his.