Get ready for "Be My Ace?" candy hearts. The Los Angeles Dodgers and ace starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw could not agree on a contract for 2012 and are scheduled to take part in a salary arbitration hearing in St. Petersburg, Florida next month. The date of the hearing is reportedly February 14, per Tony Jackson of ESPN Los Angeles, which could make for an interesting Valentine's Day.
Kershaw, who won the National League Cy Young Award in 2011 after going 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts, is seeking a salary of $10 million, which would set a record for pitchers in their first year of arbitration eligibility. The Dodgers countered with a salary of $6.5 million, which would be the second highest salary for such a pitcher, trailing only the $8 million received by Tim Lincecum in 2010 after winning two Cy Young Awards. Lincecum signed a two-year, $23 million deal that paid him salaries of $8 million and $13 million, plus a $2 million signing bonus.
The Dodgers and Kershaw can and will still negotiate until the arbitration hearing, but if they don't come to an agreement by Valentine's Day, each side will plead their case to a three-person arbitration panel that will pick one of the two salaries, with no in between. However, a settlement seems likely, given recent history.
In 2009, outfielder Andre Ethier and the club settled on a contract just minutes before their salary arbitration hearing was scheduled to begin.
Since 2000, the Dodgers have only participated in three arbitration hearings. In 2007 relief pitcher Joe Beimel asked for a salary of $1.25 million but the Dodgers prevailed and Beimel was paid $912,500. In 2004 Eric Gagne, like Kershaw, was coming off a Cy Young Award and in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Gagne asked for $8 million while the Dodgers successfully argued that it was too much, too soon, and Gagne was paid $5 million in 2004. The last case the Dodgers lost was in 2001, when the team wanted to pay $1.95 million to relief pitcher Terry Adams, but he was awarded his salary request of $2.6 million.