Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander and reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw agreed to terms on a $19 million, two-year contract Tuesday, avoiding an arbitration hearing that had been scheduled for Feb. 14.
Kershaw was in his first winter of arbitration eligibility, meaning he still will have one more winter of eligibility, following the 2013 season, before he potentially becomes eligible for free agency after 2014. He will receive a $7.5 million salary in 2012, with $2 million of that deferred to January 2013, and $11 million in 2013, plus an additional $500,000 signing bonus that effectively puts his 2012 figure at $8 million -- well below the midpoint ($8.25 million) between the arbitration figures filed last month by Kershaw ($10 million) and the club ($6.5 million).
"I'm never worried about the business side of baseball," Kershaw said at a community appearance at a food bank in South Los Angeles on Tuesday. "It's not for us to worry about. We're just supposed to play. But, at the same time, to avoid arbitration and just be done with it all is nice. Obviously the contract's a huge blessing, and the family and I are really excited about it."
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti credited Alex Tamin, the club's newly hired director of contracts, research and operations who was handing all the team's arbitration cases for the first time, with coming up with a deal that was fair to both sides.
"It was a full-length process, and it took awhile," Colletti said. "We had one-year discussions, two-year discussions and four-year discussions. There were a lot of different things in play all the time. Alex did a great job of managing it and keeping it level and giving us a chance at a multiyear deal that gives Clayton and his family some security. And for us, you know what you're going to be paying (for two years)."
Said Kershaw of the deal: "There were a couple other options (in terms of years), but we felt like this was the best for both sides."
The agreement mirrors that of San Francisco's Tim Lincecum, who in his first time eligible for arbitration two years ago agreed to a $23 million, two-year deal.
Kershaw, who will turn 24 during spring training, received just $500,000 in 2011, when he went 21-5 and won the pitching version of the Triple Crown by leading the NL with a 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts and tying for the league lead in wins. He also made the NL All-Star team for the first time.
The Dodgers originally drafted Kershaw in the first round (seventh overall) out of Highland Park High School in Dallas in 2006. He was in the major leagues less than two years later.
"He obviously was one of our own since the beginning," Colletti said. "We watched him mature and get better and more refined as somebody who had plus, plus talent and needed the experience to match it. He is a student of the game. He learns what he needs to do, and then he can execute it in the midst of a game. That is the mark of the best."
The Dodgers, who last month reached agreements with first baseman James Loney (one year, $6.375 million) and right fielder Andre Ethier (one year, $10.95 million), have no remaining arbitration cases. Last fall, they signed center fielder Matt Kemp, who also was arbitration eligible, to an eight-year, $160 million deal.
"Matt getting eight years is awesome," Kershaw said. "He's a cornerstone guy, and I'm glad he'll be around for a really long time. I'm here for three years regardless, so that's nice. We'll be around for a little while."
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Pedro Moura and The Associated Press was used in this report.