This will make Kershaw the first pitcher ever to average $30 million per year; hell, he's the first player ever to earn that much. It's also far and away the richest contract given to a pitcher, beating the $180 million deal signed by Justin Verlander. There aren't (at time of writing) many specific details of how this is broken down per season, but it's interesting to note that there does appear to be an "opt out" clause for Kershaw after five years. That would allow him to hit the free agent market at age 30 rather than 32, and potentially maximize his return.
As Diamondback fans, this means we can get used to seeing him, several times a season, for the foreseeable future. That's probably not particularly good news, considering he has a 2.22 ERA in 17 starts against Arizona, though it translates into a fairly meh 7-6 record. This year would be a case in point: he started three times versus the Diamondbacks and didn't win any of those games, despite holding us to a .589 OPS and allowing five earned runs in 21.1 innings, a 2.11 ERA. Maybe stacking up on batters who destroy lefties make sense: Cody Ross is a lifetime .348 against Kershaw, so perhaps he can give Paul Goldschmidt (2-for-20) some tips.
Does this make the Dodgers less likely to go after Masahiro Tanaka? Looking at their rotation, they already have Zack Greinke ($26 million), Josh Beckett ($15.75 million), Chad Billingsley ($12 million) and Hyun-Jin Ryu ($4.33 million), so I'm not seeing an obvious spot for Tanaka, though Billingsley and Beckett are both in the last years of their contracts. As an aside, pricing Kershaw this year at a vague $25m, that means the Dodgers rotation alone is earning over $83 million in 2014, and their total payroll goes up over the $235 million mark, so probably comfortably more than twice as much as the D-backs. Something something competitive balance, as the following shows:
There's no doubt, there is risk. Since 1990, the list of pitchers with even 30 bWAR over their age 26-32 seasons is fairly short: 15, Jered Weaver perhaps becoming #16 (even Randy Johnson didn't make the list). Only three - Maddux, Clemens and Martinez - reached 38 bWAR. But I would not bet against Kershaw making it four, considering the last three seasons have seen two Cy Young awards, a CY runner-up and 20.5 bWAR. Still, I will certainly pray for a Tim Lincecum-esque implosion - Timmeh put up a similar 19.1 bWAR from 2008-2010, and has totaled 1.9 bWAR since, while costing the Giants $54m, and providing us with much schadenfreude. We can but hope.
Health is probably a bigger concern, as with any pitcher. Remember 2008, when we talked about a long-term contract extension with Brandon Webb? He was then in the middle of his third consecutive top two Cy Young campaign, just like Kershaw. But Webb made one major-league start after that season, the career of the greatest homegrown pitcher we have ever seen, imploding in a Greek tragedy of shoulder issues and fishing specials. The injury gods care not one iota for talent or long-term contracts - and Kershaw does throw an oce-lot of sliders, his 24.5% rate last year, putting him among the top 20 for its frequency of use in the majors. So far: not an issue, Going forward? No-one knows.
I suppose the good thing is, there's not really any change here. We've had to face Kershaw for the past five years, so it's not going to be any different. This is more like discovering your annoying college roommate with bad facial hair couldn't get his own apartment and so will be staying on for longer. Life will go on regardless.