Could (and should) the Phillies make a play for Clayton Kershaw this winter?

Could (and should) the Phillies make a play for Clayton Kershaw this winter?

He’s the best pitcher of this generation and he might become available to the highest bidder in a matter of months.

Let the wild speculation begin.

Jon Heyman’s latest piece runs down the potential free agent market for Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw, who can opt out of the final two years of his contract with Los Angeles that is due to pay him $32 million in 2019 and $33 million in 2020. He will be just 31 and 32 years old in those two seasons, and Heyman says the “scuttlbutt — to no one’s surprise — is that he will use the opt-out at season’s end to better his financial standing, either with a higher AAV or longer term.”

Of course, even if he does opt out, the Dodgers would still be the overwhelming favorites to retain his services (Heyman’s cloudy odds-scoring system puts it at 3:5 he stays, whatever that means). He is the face of the franchise, one of the five or 10 best pitchers of all time and a sure-fire future Hall of Famer. He’s a Dodger icon. Letting him go is almost unthinkable.

That being said, if it happens, could the Phillies pounce? Should they?

Heyman gave the Phils the 5th-best odds to land the left-handed hurler, putting the number at 40-1.

Imagine a starting rotation of Kershaw/Aaron Nola/Jake Arrieta, with an improved Nick Pivetta and/or Vince Velasquez at the end of it.

The Phils, of course, are expected to be major players in this off-seasons free agency bonanza, with Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper presumably their top targets. As Heyman noted, the push for Machado appears to be real, with the Phils’ Baltimore connections in the front office well documented by this point. And with just $68.9 million committed to the 2019 payroll as of now, the Phillies could add a premier position player and still have room for Kershaw, should he become available.

Also, not for nothin’, but Heyman’s last line “They also are very rich, a lot richer than you think,” (emphasis added by me) is certainly interesting and cryptic. What does he mean by, “a lot richer than you think?” Could that mean Middleton doesn’t give a hoot about the luxury tax and would be willing to fly right on past it to sign all the players he wants? Hmmmmm.

While the Phillies certainly could make a run at Kershaw in the unlikely event he becomes available, should they?

When Kershaw is healthy, he’s a monster. He’s 145-66 with a career ERA of 2.35. He has averaged 9.87 strikeouts per nine innings, and has a career WHIP of 1.00. Opponents have hit .203 against him for the entire time he’s been a big league pitcher.

However, there are some injury concerns. For the last two seasons, Kershaw has missed chunks of time with back injuries. He made just 21 starts in 2016 because of a herniated disk in his lower back, and last year missed five or six starts because of a lower back strain.

Now in his early 30s, will his back hold up as he ages? If not, how much will it hinder him? And if Kershaw is looking to opt-out of $33 million and $34 million seasons each of the next two years, how much of a raise is he going to want? How long of a contract will he demand? Would the Phillies give a 31-year-old pitcher with a history of back problems a five or six-year deal worth $30-35 million a season, even if it is Clayton Kershaw?

Signing Kershaw would be a high-risk, high-reward maneuver, one I’m not sure this front office is anxious to make. And hey, it’s highly unlikely he’s going to leave Los Angeles anyway, so this is probably a moot discussion. But it’s also a fascinating possibility.

On Episode 187 of Hittin’ Season, host John Stolnis explores the possibility of Kershaw to the Phils, talks to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick about Gabe Kapler and the NL East, and Phils beat writer Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic Philadelphia talks about the Phillies recently-completed road trip and the team’s burgeoning mental skills department.

Dodgers News: Clayton Kershaw Has Prepared Response For Questions On Opt-Out Clause, Free Agency

Dodgers News: Clayton Kershaw Has Prepared Response For Questions On Opt-Out Clause, Free Agency

Rick Scuteri-AP Photo

Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw set another franchise record with his eighth consecutive Opening Day start to begin the 2018 season. He allowed just one run over six innings pitched, but was on the losing end of a 1-0 shutout.

He then was a tough-luck loser again in his second start, giving up two solo home runs to the Arizona Diamondbacks over six innings pitched. Given his potential free agent status at the end of the year, Kershaw may soon face an abundance of questions on his opt-out clause.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner won’t entertain such hypotheticals, however, and is only focused on getting hitters out this season, via Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times:

“I will say, ‘My focus right now is on trying to get people out for my next start,’” Kershaw said.

“That will be what is said. There will be a time to think about all that stuff, but that will be after the season. I’ve been to everywhere now. I know what it’s like. I don’t need to worry about that now. I can sift through all that stuff, if I have to, in the offseason.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Kershaw has his attention solely on the 2018 season, given his competitive nature and desire to add a World Series championship to his illustrious résumé.

Considering all that he has accomplished to date, Kershaw can comfortably wait until the offseason to determine his long-term future, whether it’s re-signing with the Dodgers or joining another organization.

He can opt out of his current seven-year contract and test the free agent waters that may also include Josh Donaldson, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, among others. That’s assuming Kershaw remains healthy and enjoys another elite campaign that he is accustomed to.

Earlier this spring, Kershaw said he hasn’t yet thought about the possibility of opting out. Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi previously said that the club is keeping tabs with the 30-year-old, with respect to hammering out a contract extension.

Clayton Kershaw, who can opt out after the season, says his focus is on 'trying to get people out'

Clayton Kershaw, who can opt out after the season, says his focus is on 'trying to get people out'

The Clayton Kershaw Road Show is about to start.

The Dodgers play their first road game of the season Monday. Wherever the team goes, Kershaw could face questions from reporters asking if he might like to play in (insert city here) next season. Will he entertain them?

“I will not entertain people,” Kershaw said.

Let’s phrase that a little more artfully. Will he entertain the questions?

“I will say, ‘My focus right now is on trying to get people out for my next start,’” Kershaw said.

“That will be what is said. There will be a time to think about all that stuff, but that will be after the season. I’ve been to everywhere now. I know what it’s like. I don’t need to worry about that now. I can sift through all that stuff, if I have to, in the offseason.”

Kershaw, 30, the three-time National League Cy Young award winner, can opt out of the final two years and $65 million of his contract with the Dodgers. Although some players will not discuss a new contract once the season starts, Kershaw said he would be willing to consider any offer the Dodgers might care to make during the season.

“I’m blessed to be in the spot I’m in,” he said.

In the absence of a new deal before then, the what-will-Kershaw-do frenzy figures to peak Aug. 28-29, when the Dodgers play at Texas. Kershaw grew up and still lives in the Dallas area, and his hometown Rangers could make him the main attraction for their new ballpark, scheduled to open in 2020.

He said he would let his agent, Casey Close, worry about contract talks. He said he would worry about getting hitters out.

“If I do that enough times this year,” he said, “I’ll probably have an option.”

Farmville

Kyle Farmer might not have made the Dodgers’ roster had Justin Turner not been injured. Although the Dodgers said Logan Forsythe would be the primary third baseman with Turner on the disabled list, Farmer has started two of the first four games at third base.

Farmer was a shortstop at the University of Georgia, but the Dodgers drafted him and told him he was a catcher. He never had played the position; the Dodgers sent him to rookie ball with a face mask and well wishes.

“First time I ever caught, I put the shin guards on backwards,” he said.

“I woke up the next morning kind of regretting it. My body was so sore. It had never gone through that toll before. But I enjoy it now.”

Farmer’s versatility could keep him in the majors beyond Turner’s return. He can catch and play any infield position. He said he would try the outfield if the Dodgers asked, but he added a warning.

“It might be kind of ugly,” he said.

Thumbs up for A-Rod

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he has been impressed with his meetings with Alex Rodriguez, a rookie analyst on the ESPN team that broadcast two games in the season-opening series against the San Francisco Giants.

“The thing that I really admire is a guy that’s done so well financially,” Roberts said, “to want to still be a part of this great game, and to constantly learn, and be great at it. That’s really inspiring.”

Totally gold

Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Chloe Kim threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

“I am so stoked to be here,” she told the crowd.

Minor deal

In a minor league trade, the Dodgers acquired “speedy utility player” Breyvic Valera, 26, from the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Johan Mieses.

Valera, who had been designated for assignment by the Cardinals, was the most valuable player of Venezuela’s winter league. He’ll report to triple-A Oklahoma City.

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Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin