Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers agree to negotiate

LOS ANGELES– Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers wasted no time as the likely Hall of Famer will return for a 16th season as both teams move closer to a one-year deal, sources told Thursday.

The terms of the agreement are still under discussion. The club haven’t confirmed the transfer.

The Dodgers did not extend Kershaw a qualifying offer before Thursday’s deadline, but president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman made it clear that bringing back the southpaw was “a priority” for the team this offseason. Hours into free agency, Kershaw’s free agency ended.

“Things feel better in the world when Kershaw wears a Dodgers uniform,” Friedman said at general manager meetings in Las Vegas. “That’s how it is with us, but we couldn’t respect him and Ellen more, going through this process.”

Last winter, Kershaw’s future was much more uncertain. Kershaw didn’t pick up a baseball until January after finishing the season on the injured list with a forearm injury. His three options were to play for the Dodgers, join the Rangers to stay close to his family, or retire in case his forearm didn’t heal as well as he hoped.

Before the end of the 2022 season, Kershaw confirmed that he wanted to play at least one more season. He will sign one-year contracts for the rest of his career, keeping his options open. There was a chance he could sign with the Rangers, but with the way the Dodgers played during the regular season, Kershaw wanted to come back.

The Dodgers did not offer Kershaw a qualifying offer because they did not want to rush his decision. But Kershaw was ready to be back with the Dodgers, the only place he’s known as a big leaguer. Once Kershaw takes the mound next season, he will become the second Dodger to pitch 16 seasons with the organization, joining Hall of Famer Don Sutton, who also played parts of 16 seasons in Los Angeles.

Kershaw was one of the most efficient pitchers in the National League last season, going 12-3 and having a 2.28 ERA in 22 starts. He made his ninth All-Star team and started the Midsummer Classic for the first time in his career at Dodger Stadium. The southpaw missed two months with two back injuries, something Kershaw will have to watch for the rest of his career.

Adding Kershaw so early in the offseason gives the Dodgers more freedom over what their starting situation will look like next season. Julio Urías, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin are the other three starters in the rotation. Ryan Pepiot, Michael Grove, Gavin Stone and Bobby Miller will all serve as depth options.

Friedman said adding the tee shot was “very” high on the agenda. They acted quickly and Kershaw is staying home for at least one more season.

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