"It's still very early in his career," Alan Hendricks said Wednesday, having met with Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday night. "You always listen if the club wants to talk, but it would have to be the right deal."
That is usually agent-speak for no discount, and Kershaw, who turns 24 in March, has the confidence to compete at the bargaining table as much as on the mound.
Colletti this week said he told Kershaw's agent that if they were interested, the sides could "sit and talk about it," but they hadn't started to negotiate a deal and he had "no idea what their financial interest is."
Kershaw is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time, coming off a salary of $500,000 that could reach the $8 million neighborhood coming off his record-breaking season. The Dodgers have him under arbitration control through the 2014 season before he would be eligible for free agency.
That is in contrast to the recent situation for NL MVP runner-up Matt Kemp, who was entering his final year of arbitration and facing free agency after the 2012 season. That gave Kemp the leverage to extract an eight-year, $160 million deal, selling off seven years of free agency.
From the club's perspective, providing Kershaw with long-term security three years before he could leave usually would require the club to seek a discount in return for the added risk, particularly for a pitcher.
A multiyear deal rarely makes sense for the club unless it buys up free-agency seasons, but that means a deal of four years or more. The only Dodgers pitchers in recent years with contracts at least that long were Kevin Brown (seven years, $105 million), Darren Dreifort (five years, $55 million), Derek Lowe (four years, $36 million) and Kaz Ishii (four years, $12.2 million). Lowe was the only one that avoided major injury and spent the duration of the deal with the club. The other three suffered major injuries, and Brown and Ishii were traded.
Hendricks also represents free-agent reliever Mike MacDougal, who was the focus of the Tuesday night meeting with Colletti. Despite flying under the national radar, MacDougal turned into the bargain pickup of last winter, signing for a $500,000 Minor League deal after battling through injuries and a Minor League demotion by the Cardinals in 2010.
A former closer with Kansas City and Washington, MacDougal (35 in March) filled a key middle relief role with 69 appearances and a 2.05 ERA (1.78 against division opponents).
Now, however, similar veteran non-closers are signing in the $3 million neighborhood. And the Dodgers are cash-strapped, forced to back-load multiyear deals to hold down the 2012 payroll. No deal appears imminent.
"We have a number of interested teams which include the Dodgers," MacDougal wrote in a text. "I really enjoyed my time in LA. The staff with [manager] Don [Mattingly], [pitching coach] Rick [Honeycutt] and [bullpen coach] Kenny [Howell] was a great fit for me."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.