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Clayton Kershaw becomes highest paid player in baseball history

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In a move key to the long-term health of their franchise, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Clayton Kershaw to a 7-year $215 million extension, MLB Network insider John Heyman today confirmed. The deal has an average annual value of $30.7 million, the highest in baseball history.

The move avoids Friday’s scheduled exchange of salary figures in the arbitration process.

Chosen by Los Angeles in the first round of the 2006 draft, Kershaw made his Major League debut in 2008 at age 20. The following season he started 30 games and finished with a 2.79 ERA.

Kershaw has led the Major Leagues in ERA each of the last three years. In doing so he joined Hall of Fame pitchers Greg Maddux (1993-1995) and Lefty Grove (1929-1931) as the only hurlers to achieve the feat. Kerhsaw’s career ERA of 2.60 is the lowest of any pitcher with at least 1,000 innings since 1920.

The deal makes sense for the Dodgers. They lock up the best pitcher in baseball through his age-32 season and avoid arbitration and free agency in the process. Since 2011, Kershaw ranks first in the big leagues in ERA, strikeouts, on-base plus slugging (OPS) and walks plus hits per innings pitched (WHIP).

With Kershaw joining Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, and Zack Greinke, Los Angeles now has five players making $20 million or more in 2014. The rest of the National League combined six players making at least that much.

The team may still be in the hunt for Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka, who insiders say will command at least $17 million per season. Tanaka is represented by Casey Close who is also the agent for Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

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