Chicago Cubs: Clayton Kershaw makes a lot of sense in the short-term

Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports /

The Los Angeles Dodgers finished as one of three clubs in baseball in 2021 to eclipse the 100+ win mark. In addition to a 106-win regular season, the Dodgers led baseball with a collective 3.01 ERA. The pitching staff finished second overall across baseball in total strikeouts, falling behind only the Milwaukee Brewers by a mere 19 strikeouts.

The Dodgers have known how to develop homegrown talent for a long time. Their pitching staff has been one of the best for quite some time now. Most of this can be attributed to their longtime ace Clayton Kershaw, who has cemented his path forward as a future Hall-of-Famer.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs pitching staff finished in the bottom five as they struggled to find any consistency amongst the shuffle of trading nearly their entire offensive core. The anchor of the Cubs’ rotation Kyle Hendricks was the closest to the 200-inning mark, throwing 181 innings as the club saw 12 guys make at least one start.

Something has to change in 2022.

Chicago Cubs: Clayton Kershaw would provide quality veteran leadership

David Ross is going into his third season as captain of a wavering ship, as he holds a 105-117 record in his first couple of years at the helm. However, considering the turmoil within the organization during that time, for Ross to be south of the .500 mark by only 12 games isn’t terrible.

Keeping that in mind, Ross is entering into interesting territory as his contract is set to expire after this upcoming season with a club option for the 2023 season. The expectation is that Ross will see an extension, and with that, the time is now to make moves that will help in the immediate so that Ross is set up for long-term success. It begins with signing Kershaw.

Kershaw pitched to a 3.55 ERA in 22 starts last season, his worst mark since his rookie season back in 2008. That is elite, as Kershaw would have nearly been in the top-20 of all starters in baseball had he qualified. Instead, he missed three months and the entire postseason with an elbow issue. Thankfully for Kershaw, there was no ligament damage and he avoided surgery, both of which are good news.

As Major League Baseball and the Players Association continue to battle it out in trying to get a deal done so baseball activities can resume, the expectation is Kershaw will be ready for spring training. It also allows for more recovery time and for the Cubs to consider the possibility of extending an offer since the veteran lefty is a free agent.

Kershaw is on the cusp of turning 34 years old, definitely reducing the likelihood of a team, including the Dodgers, from offering him a significant contract. To that point, this is where it would make a lot of sense for the Cubs to throw their hat in the ring.

The club has already made an offseason splash in bringing in Marcus Stroman on a three-year deal worth $71 million. This season, outfielder Jason Heyward is the only other player on the active roster slated north of the $20 million mark. Hendricks and Wade Miley round out the guys making at least $10 million. As this is the case, a short-term deal with Kershaw would not break the bank.

What would it take for the Chicago Cubs to land Clayton Kershaw?

In thinking what that may look like, a deal somewhere in the range of what the Cubs gave Kimbrel could be viable for a two-year contract. The likelihood of a two-year deal anywhere for Kershaw under $50 million is probably not realistic; however, if the Cubs were to extend a three-year deal for somewhere in the $55 to $60 million range, that could be a slam dunk.

While the thought of giving a guy about to turn 34 years old coming off of an elbow injury nearly $20 million may be daunting, it is essential to remember the nature of what bringing a veteran, probable first-ballot Hall of Famer into the rotational fold might mean for the young guys starting to make their mark.

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Kershaw to the Chicago Cubs is a bold idea. Sometimes, however, boldness is precisely what is necessary to light a fire. Ross, the club, and the fans need that heading into 2022 and beyond.