At $215 million for seven years, the average annual value of $30.714 million will surpass a record set by Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia for a player at any position. The $215 million deal surpasses the $180 million contract Justin Verlander signed with the Tigers in March, making Kershaw the highest-paid pitcher in history.
In 2013, the 25-year-old Kershaw won his second Cy Young Award in three years and his third consecutive MLB ERA title at 1.83, becoming the first Dodgers pitcher to three-peat and the first in the game since Greg Maddux's run from 1993-95.
Kershaw made the All-Star Game for a third consecutive year, led the Major Leagues with a 0.92 WHIP, led the NL with 232 strikeouts, was second with 236 innings, was second with a .195 opponents' batting average and tied for third with 16 wins.
He was the only pitcher in the league to finish in the top three in wins, ERA, strikeouts and innings.
And it's not just raw talent. His intangibles are off the charts, from work ethic and aptitude to character and leadership.
"Kersh is kind of what we're all about," manager Don Mattingly said after Kershaw beat the Phillies in August. "What Kersh has done all year to this point really means nothing. He'll be one of the first guys here tomorrow, blow out a workout and be on track to the next one. He doesn't take a hitter off. Every pitch has a purpose. He wants every out he can get. And he keeps turning the page. Everything in the past is over, and it's about today. He's pretty amazing."
Kershaw became the franchise's first multiple Cy Young winner since Sandy Koufax (1963, '65, '66), which is fitting because the 1.83 ERA is the best by an NL lefty since Koufax's 1.73 in '66. It's also the lowest ERA in MLB since Pedro Martinez's 1.74 in 2000 and lowest in the league since Maddux's 1.63 in 1995.
From the Roberto Clemente Award for community service to the billboards alongside freeways that underscore his role as the youthful face of the franchise, Kershaw has evolved into an icon.
The seventh overall pick in the 2006 Draft out of Highland Park High School near Dallas, Kershaw has a big league record of 77-46 with an ERA of 2.60. He's a three-time All-Star with a Gold Glove Award in 2011 and was seventh last year in NL MVP voting. In five full seasons, he has never started fewer than 31 games, with a career-high 35 in '13. Between his Cy Young Awards in '11 and '13, he finished second in '12.
Negotiations for this deal began last spring. Kershaw last summer reportedly rejected what amounted to a lifetime contract, rumored worth as much as $300 million. At the time, Kershaw wouldn't discuss specifics, other than his annoyance that word of the in-season negotiations had leaked. He earlier had told reporters that there would be no in-season negotiations.
Kershaw is one of three Dodgers who filed for arbitration on Tuesday, the others being closer Kenley Jansen and catcher A.J. Ellis. This is Kershaw's final year of arbitration eligibility, after which he would be eligible for free agency. He is coming off a two-year, $19 million deal.
Ellis was among the first to take to social media to express his joy for Kershaw's deal, tweeting, "Big winner today......me. I am blessed to catch best in the game for foreseeable future God willing. Congrats Kersh!"
Matt Kemp followed up from his @TheRealMattKemp account with "Congrats 2 the best pitcher in baseball and great teammate @ClaytonKersh22 on his deal!"
Kershaw had been coy about his plans, admitting over the winter that free agency was intriguing. He is represented by J.D. Smart and Casey Close, whose agency also represents fellow Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke (who also has a contract opt-out), as well as Masahiro Tanaka, the Japanese starting pitcher who has held negotiations with several MLB teams in the past week.
Without drawing a direct connection, the Dodgers had indicated only moderate interest in Tanaka while the talks with Kershaw have progressed.
When the deal is finalized, the Dodgers will have Kershaw signed through 2020 (or a 2018 opt out), Greinke through '18 (or a '15 opt out) and Hyun-Jin Ryu through '18. Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley and Dan Haren are signed through '14.