For the first time since June 2015, the Rangers (27-41, 5th American League West) meet at Chavez Ravine to battle the Los Angeles Dodgers at historic Dodger Stadium.
In that meeting, two contending teams well on their way to a postseason run met. This time around, it’s a different story— with 2018’s matchup pitting two teams searching for an identity.
Los Angeles (33-32, 3rd NL West) got off to a shaky start in its National League pennant defense, slumping to a 16-26 start in May.
Several storylines have surrounded the team since, including OF Matt Kemp’s rise back to prominence as an elite offensive outfielder, as well as the absence of former N.L MVP, Cy Young, and Triple Crown winner LHP Clayton Kershaw, who has battled lingering back issues, and is currently on the 10-Day Disabled List.
Kershaw’s pending free agency has been a often-discussed issue this season among baseball pundits. The 30 year-old can opt-out of his $30 million option for 2019 and become an unrestricted free agent.
Although many speculate Kershaw’s opt-out as a forgone conclusion, if he continues to struggle both on the mound and injury this season, it may scare potential bidders, and he certainly might opt-in to the likely higher guaranteed dollar amount for next season.
Rumblings associating Kershaw and Texas as a possible pairing this off-season have begun to pick up steam. Kershaw has firm North Texas ties; he hails from Highland Park, where he dominated on the Scots baseball and football teams. He ultimately turned down a scholarship offer to play baseball at Texas A&M when he was drafted by Los Angeles in the first round of the 2006 MLB First-Year player draft.
Likely, a player with Kershaw’s track record would command a significant investment on the open market, perhaps even a 10-year, $30-million per-season mega-deal similar what Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels agreed to prior to 2012.
The adage “just because you have money, doesn’t mean you have to spend it,” applies here. A massive contract could handcuff Texas’ budget situation moving forward, which could prevent the team from extending young star OF’s Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo.
Furthermore, it could prevent a twilight ride with team captain and fan-favorite Adrian Beltre, who will likely command a significant salary when his contract expires this offseason.
Ahead of this season, and given the Rangers loose salary cap situation, a massive contract offer would’ve been a no-brainer. But injuries change things.
Can the Rangers pursue Kershaw? Yes. Should they? The rest of his season will answer that question. If he pitches well and stays healthy, it seems likely that he’d opt-out to test offers on the open market. After that, Texas’ front office must weigh the pros and cons of adding Kershaw
A signing like Kershaw would energize the Texas fan base ahead of Globe Life Field’s opening in 2020, something the front office is certainly keeping in mind. This and his Texas roots might create a pairing worth sacrificing cap mobility for Texas’ front office.
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