The more his return to the mound is delayed, it seems like it’s more and more likely the Los Angeles Dodgers will have to shut down Clayton Kershaw for the rest of the season. With $140 million hanging in the balance, missing the playoffs is no longer so frightening.
Overall, the Dodgers haven’t done too badly without Kershaw, who last pitched on June 26, losing for the second time this season. They’ve gone 11-7 in his absence, currently leading the Wild Card standings. Things aren’t smooth. Kershaw isn’t the only pitching injury they’re dealing with, and suddenly the overspending of previous years, and letting go of someone like Zack Greinke or not going after Johnny Cueto seems to be waving right back at them. Greinke, by the way, is injured too.
Kershaw is on the DL with a mild disk herniation. Turns out the back problems have been bothering him for a while, and what initially seemed like minor discomfort has turned into something more serious – almost a month without baseball, and it’s not ending right now. The Dodgers were hoping he’d be healthy enough to get back by the end of the upcoming weekend, but after a simulated start on Saturday, he felt discomfort in his back again, and the comeback was nixed.
The Dodgers aren’t really sure how bad it really is: Clayton, after he threw that live session, the next day Sunday didn’t feel great. I think that at that point and time he let us know that we had to be a little more on the cautious side. I don’t know if it’s a step back, but we’re going to let the back pain subside and see where we go. So as far as his return uncertain.
If the simulated start put Kershaw right where he started his stint on the DL, this means at least three more weeks of missing baseball. This means another simulated start in mid August, and then a return later: Late August, maybe even September, entering the final month of the season.
The Dodgers current rotation includes Scott Kazmir, Bud Norris, Julio Urias, Brandon McCarthy and Kenta Maeda. This could mean we’re going to see them act more aggressively towards the deadline, with 11 days left to bring in players. Seems like almost every contender in the majors is looking for at least one more starting pitcher. The Dodgers thought they might be able to dodge that bullet, but with Kershaw sidelined indefinitely, they’ll have to dive right back in the trade market.
Obviously, the main concern here is Kershaw’s healthy, and the future. He’s owed $140 million from 2017 through 2020, with an opt out option following the 2018 season. Maybe he can pitch injured at some point if things get desperate, but with a three-time Cy Young winner who was having another terrific season having his future depending on how much rest he gets, the Dodgers will stick to playing it safe.