A number of players enjoyed big games on Opening Day, but Clayton Kershaw bested them all in his first start of the new season for the Dodgers.

The left-hander shut out the Giants on Monday, allowing just four hits and no walks while striking out seven. If that wasn’t enough, he also hit a solo home run off of Giants reliever George Kontos in the bottom of the eighth to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. L.A. went on to win 4-0.

It was another dominant performance in what has been a dominant career to this point for the 25-year-old. He currently sits at 62-37 with a 2.77 ERA and 9.3 K/9 for his career, and he’s captured the NL ERA title each of the past two seasons.

A member of the Dodgers’ rotation at the age of 20, it’s scary to think Kershaw is just entering his prime with what he has already accomplished.

A number of marquee pitchers have received massive contract extensions the past few years, and Kershaw may very well be next. Here’s a look at the notable deals that have been signed recently.

Name Extension Terms Age at Extension
CC Sabathia Five-Year, $122 Million 31
Jered Weaver Five-Year, $85 Million 28
Matt Cain Six-Year, $127.5 Million 28
Cole Hamels Six-Year, $144 Million 28
Felix Hernandez Seven-Year, $175 Million 26
Adam Wainwright Five-Year, $97.5 Million 31
Justin Verlander Seven-Year, $180 Million  30

All contract info via Baseball Prospectus.

The one thing that stands out here, aside from what a ridiculous amount of money these guys are making, is the fact that Kershaw is younger than any of them were at the time of their extensions. 

In fact, he’s at least three years younger than everyone besides Hernandez, and those two have a lot in common.

Both already have a Cy Young under their belt, both were in the rotation full-time by the age of 20 and both turned in dynamite performances on Opening Day.

It’s safe to assume Kershaw will eclipse Hamels as the highest-paid left-hander of all time once he does come to terms on an extension, and you have to think Verlander has helped set the market with his extension.

Kershaw will make $11 million this coming season and is under team control through 2014, but the Dodgers will no doubt move to buy out his final year of arbitration and lock him into a long-term deal before he ever nears free agency.

Given what Verlander has accomplished to this point, he deserves to be the highest-paid pitcher in the game, but given the fact that Kershaw is a full five years younger certainly works in his favor.

In all reality, Kershaw has a real shot at being the first $200 million pitcher, and a seven-year, $200 million deal would give him an annual salary of $28.6 million.

He’s likely not going to get any cheaper, as the price of pitching is at an all-time high (see Sanchez, Anibal). If the Dodgers were wise, they’d move quickly to lock up their young ace, as another Cy Young-caliber season will only push his value higher.

My guess is something gets done here within the next couple weeks, and Kershaw falls just short of the $200 million plateau. A seven-year, $182 million deal would give him a nice, round annual salary of $26 million and still make him the highest-paid pitcher ever.

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