Clayton Kershaw's second foray into free agency lasted a lot shorter than his first, but the destination was ultimately the same.
The longtime Los Angeles Dodgers ace has agreed to a one-year deal worth around $20 million with the only organization he has known since he was drafted in 2006, according to the New York Post's Jon Heyman.
The deal swiftly removes one of the top arms available in this offseason's free agency class, though convincing Kershaw to leave Los Angeles always seemed like a hard sell for potential suitors. The Texas Rangers at least had the angle of being his hometown team, but the 34-year-old southpaw opted to keep his relationship with the Dodgers going.
Clayton Kershaw was strong again for the Dodgers in 2022
At some point, Kershaw will slow down (or retire). It didn't come in 2022.
Kershaw entered the season behind schedule after waiting until March 13 to re-sign with the Dodgers, partially due to the MLB owner lockout that put the offseason on ice for three months, but then he took the mound against the Minnesota Twins and threw seven perfect innings.
A strong season would follow, with Kershaw getting the start for the 2022 MLB All-Star Game as the Dodger Stadium local hero and taking another perfect game into the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Angels. A lower back injury — a frequent occurrence for him — landed him on the injured list for a while, but he was still effective as ever when on the mound.
Kershaw finished the season with a 2.28 ERA and 137 strikeouts in 126 1/3 innings. The postseason didn't end well for him or the Dodgers, but plenty of teams should have been interested in him had he actually looked around in free agency.
Kershaw was not among the group of pending free agents extended qualifying offers on Thursday, as the Dodgers were apparently working on something else with him.
Dodgers still have a significant MLB free agency to-do list
Two Dodgers who did receive qualifying offers were All-Stars Trea Turner and Tyler Anderson. Both figure to reject the one-year, $19.65 million deal that will give the Dodgers draft pick compensation should they sign elsewhere, though there is an outside chance Anderson opts to stay as well.
Turner leaving would give the Dodgers an enormous hole at shortstop, as their best in-house option, former top prospect Gavin Lux, hasn't exactly shown a shortstop-ready arm from his usual second base position. However, there is a wealth of All-Star shortstops on the market with Turner, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson, so the Dodgers at least have options.
As for Anderson, he became a classic Dodgers story in 2022, going from a career 4.62 ERA to a first career All-Star nod and the 111-win team's playoff rotation. The Dodgers would probably like him back for 2023, but the lesson of Anderson might be that they can find big value from pitchers who won't cost a predicted $50 million.
What other MLB free agent pitchers are still available?
The good news for other MLB teams is that there are still a few big-time arms available in MLB free agency.
Even if their heart was set on signing an aging but still effective Cy Young winner, Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander are still around to cater to that specific taste. Other arms include San Francisco Giants breakout pitcher Carlos Rodon, New York Mets veteran Chris Bassitt and Boston Red Sox innings eater Nathan Eovaldi. There's also Japanese pitcher Kodai Senga, who's looking for an MLB team after a decade in Nippon Professional Baseball.