Thursday, June 20, 2013

And Since We're Leaking About It: Here's What Kershaw Might Be Worth

ZIPS guru Dan Szymborski of ESPN projected what Clayton Kershaw is likely worth, now that word has leaked that negotiations are underway (nice job, Colletti!). And if the Dodgers do what the statistical projections (and fans) say they should be doing, Kershaw is set to make quite a (deserved) payday:

So, what is Kershaw worth, from a numbers standpoint? To answer this question, I asked the ZiPS projection system to run an eight-year projection for Kershaw, based on his numbers through his last start, from 2015 through 2022. One of the nice things about the computer is that it can factor in downside risk and the odds of a catastrophic injury.

For 2015-2022, ZiPS projects Kershaw to be worth 32.9 WAR -- half a Hall of Fame career by itself -- and has him putting up a 3.10 ERA over that time period. It's important to note that the 33 WAR is what it comes up with after taking into consideration possible performance decline (it has his ERA worse than his current 2.70 career number every single season) and missing innings as we push farther into the future.

MLB teams are now paying for future wins as if they were worth $5 million each on the free-agent market. Assuming this number grows by 5 percent a year -- baseball's history has that number at closer to 7 percent -- it would cost roughly $210 million on the free-agent market to get Kershaw's projected performance from 2015-2022.

That, in fact, is the most valuable eight-year period for a pitcher that ZiPS has ever projected. Better than Felix Hernandez or Zack Greinke or Justin Verlander. In the position the Dodgers are in, with $641 million committed in salary from 2014-2019, the natural reaction is to be cautious of adding another $200 million to the payroll. But the Dodgers are not in a position to be cautious. It doesn't matter how much is wasted on Andre Ethier or Josh Beckett or Brandon League. That money's gone and spent. The Dodgers are unlikely to develop another Kershaw in the time frame to get the most out of Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Greinke, and they're not going to buy another Kershaw for anything less.

Long term, ZiPS sees Kershaw as one of the pitchers with a realistic shot at 300 wins. The odds stand at a projected 10 percent right now, but if Kershaw can avoid injury, that percentage will shoot up fairly quickly. Having 75 wins through his age 25 season would put him 13th in the divisional era, tied with Greg Maddux and just a few wins behind Roger Clemens, both 300-game winners.

Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball and in the prime of his career. If the Dodgers want to invest a lot of money, there's no better use of the money than keeping Kershaw in L.A. For the denizens of Chavez Ravine, the fact that the team apparently realizes it is the best news in a rather disappointing year.

I look at $210M and think it's about 10x Brandon League's deal. That math makes a lot of sense to me.

photo: Mike McGinnis / Getty Images


QuadSevens said...

(Russian accent) Pay that man his money.