LOS ANGELES >> Even Clayton Kershaw has trouble contemplating the enormity of a $215 million, seven-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers that makes him baseball’s richest pitcher.
The team finalized the deal Friday, when Kershaw stayed home in Dallas. The 25-year-old ace said by phone that talking money is “a little bit uncomfortable for me.”
Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, have been discussing how to spend the money, and most of their ideas revolve around charitable interests. The couple supports an orphanage in Africa and two groups that fund afterschool programs for children in Los Angeles and Dallas. They have no children of their own.
“Ellen and I understand the effects we can have on a lot of people with this money,” he said. “We realize to whom much is given much is expected and that’s what we’re going to try and do.”
Kershaw gets an $18 million signing bonus, payable in $6 million installments this April 15, July 15 and Sept. 15. He receives salaries of $4 million this year, $30 million next year, $32 million in 2016, $33 million in each of the next two seasons, $32 million in 2019 and $33 million in 2020.
He would earn a $1 million bonus each time he wins the Cy Young Award and $500,000 whenever he finishes second or third.
Kershaw said the money is both “a tremendous blessing and a tremendous responsibility.”
His deal breaks the salary record for a pitcher of $180 million set by Justin Verlander last March for his seven-year contract with Detroit.
Kershaw’s average salary of $30.7 million betters 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.
“Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of expectations, as it should be if your salary’s out there and you’re one of the highest paid players in the game,” said Kershaw, a two-time NL Cy Young Award winner. “That’s fine with me. I understand those expectations and I look forward to try to live up to them.”
Kershaw regards the lucrative deal as a precedent-setter for future players.
“Hopefully somebody comes along and beats it,” he said.
Kershaw would have been eligible for free agency after the upcoming season if the new deal hadn’t been reached. He can opt out after five years, a contract provision he wanted.
“I always want to be able to see the end,” he said. “Anything longer than that, I would have been overwhelmed trying to live up to the expectations.”
The Dodgers first began talking with Kershaw’s representatives last March. By summer, they were nearing a deal, but decided to put it off until after the season ended. The team had baseball’s second-highest payroll at the end of the regular season last fall — more than $236 million.
“A big, big factor for us that really was a positive for us is Clayton’s age,” Dodgers President Stan Kasten said. “I’d feel differently doing this contract with a player that’s in his mid-30s. It doesn’t make it fool-proof, there are still risks.”
Kershaw 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.
The Dodgers were eliminated after Kershaw pitched a rare clunker in a 9-0 loss to St. Louis in the NL championship series.
“I definitely feel pretty responsible for us ending our season,” he said. “It leaves a little bit of a bitter taste in your mouth.”
The Dodgers continue to talk to representatives of Japanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. The 30-day window to sign the 25-year-old right-hander ends on Jan. 24.
Kershaw hasn’t been asked by the Dodgers to help recruit Tanaka nor does he want to weigh in on potential player acquisitions.
“From what I hear, he seems like a great pitcher,” he said. “If he’s a great pitcher it definitely can never hurt.”
Typical of his low-key personality, Kershaw didn’t see any reason to celebrate the new deal.
“I had a few of my buddies over here,” he said. “We played some pingpong and grilled some burgers.”
AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.