LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw agreed Wednesday to a $215 million, seven-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press, a deal that makes the two-time Cy Young Award winner baseball’s first player with a $30 million average salary.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not yet been announced.
Kershaw receives the most lucrative deal for a pitcher, breaking the mark of $180 million set by Justin Verlander last March for his seven-year contract with Detroit.
Kershaw would have been eligible for free agency after the upcoming season if the new deal hadn’t been reached. He was eligible for salary arbitration, and those figures were set to be exchanged on Friday. He was coming off a two-year, $20 million deal that included $200,000 in bonuses in 2012, a $500,000 escalator to his 2013 base salary, and $300,000 in bonuses last year.
General manager Ned Colletti said last week that both sides had been negotiating.
“It’s our desire to sign him here for a very long time,” Colletti said.
The average salary of $30.7 million tops the previous high of $27.5 million, set by the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez as part of a 10-year agreement from December 2007. While Roger Clemens had a contract with a listed salary of $28 million with the Yankees in 2007, he joined the team in June and actually made $17.4 million.
The Dodgers had baseball’s second-highest payroll at the end of the regular season last fall — more than $236 million.
Kershaw’s agreement, first reported by ESPN.com, is baseball’s seventh of $200 million or more. Among current contracts, it trails only the agreements of Rodriguez, Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto ($251.5 million over 12 years), Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols ($240 million over 10 years) and Seattle second baseman Robinson Cano ($240 million over 10 years).
A left-hander who turns 26 in March, Kershaw won NL Cy Young Awards in 2011 and 2013.
He was 16-9 for the NL West champion Dodgers last year and led the league with 232 strikeouts, and his 1.83 ERA was the best in the major leagues since Pedro Martinez’s 1.74 for Boston in 2000. He has led the NL in ERA in each of the last three years.
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis tweeted: “Big winner today......me. I am blessed to catch best in the game for foreseeable future God willing. Congrats Kersh!”
Teammate Matt Kemp chimed in, tweeting, “Congrats 2 the best pitcher in baseball and great teammate @ClaytonKersh22 on his deal!”
Kershaw has been a powerful, yet low-key, presence on the team. In the offseason, the Dallas native has worked to build a charitable legacy alongside his wife, Ellen. The couple has made yearly trips to Africa, where his foundation that focuses on helping at-risk children built an orphanage.
The deal signifies further stability for a club that was in turmoil under former owner Frank McCourt, who sold the team to a group that includes Magic Johnson in 2012. The Dodgers signed manager Don Mattingly to a three-year deal last week and now have locked up their ace.
Last year, Kershaw pitched a career-high 259 innings between the regular season and the playoffs. The season ended on a sour note when he pitched a rare clunker in the Dodgers’ 9-0 loss to St. Louis in the NL championship series that eliminated them.
Still up for discussion this winter is a new deal for Hanley Ramirez, who hit a team-leading .345 and played hurt during the NLCS. He has one year left on his contract.