In January, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Clayton Kershaw to a contract extension valued at $215 million over seven seasons. It's beginning to look like a bargain and Kershaw's best baseball cards purchased early in his pro career are too.
His 2014 statistics are mind boggling: a 21-3 record, a 1.77 earned run average, 239 strikeouts --and one no-hitter.
Kershaw is already a two time Cy Young award winner (2011, '13) and will certainly take home his third this winter. He has won the ERA title four straight years.
For Dodgers fans of past and present the inevitable comparison to Sandy Koufax has been made. Koufax, who between 1961-'66 was one of the best pitchers the game would ever see, only earned $35,000 in 1963 when he won both the NL Cy Young and MVP awards according to the Bill James Historical Abstract. Even adjusted for inflation, Koufax' salary that year only amounted to $266,582.19 in 2013 dollars according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Kershaw will match Koufax' three Cy Young awards, but it will be difficult to match Koufax' MVP award. It has become extremely rare for a pitcher to win the MVP award with only Justin Verlander accomplishing the feat in 2011 in recent history.
In terms of an investment by the Dodgers - one of baseball's richest franchises - the risk of signing a pitcher long term is always there. They need look no further than their great rival - the Giants - for pitching contracts gone awry. However, with the Dodgers needing to stay competitive to draw ratings to a new TV deal it was clear they needed to keep Kershaw in the mix for years to come. Kershaw is well regarded for his charity - Kershaw's Challenge - and was the recipient of the 2013 Branch Rickey Award. He's a public relations gift from the heavens.
In terms of the value of Clayton Kershaw baseball cards, it has always been difficult for pitchers to amass what some call 'hobby love'. In fact, the back-to-back Cy Young awards by Tim Lincecum in 2008-'09 and the aforementioned Verlander's masterful 2011 MVP winning campaign did not result in massive hobby gains.
Projecting pitcher statistics has become increasingly difficult as the prevalence of bullpens has resulted in fewer decisions awarded to starting pitchers over the past two decades. Kershaw has now won 98 games and is only 26. If he pitches at least a dozen more seasons, stays healthy, and the Dodgers offense does their part - then Kershaw has a chance to reach the 300 win club. A World Series title, perfect game, and/or no hitter can also impact Kershaw's value in positive manner. As with most pitchers, a perfect game or no-hitter would result an exponential spike in sales in the hours following the event - as it did with Verlander during his two no hit performances.
Kershaw first appeared on the 2005 Upper Deck USA Baseball set when he was a member of the national team and while his 'official' rookie cards are dated 2008 when he first appeared in the major leagues, the most desirable of all Kershaw cards is his 2006 Bowman Chrome issue. Available in several parallel versions, an Orange refractor (#'d to 25) has more than doubled in price over the last nine months. The latest sale for a BGS 9.5 was $5,600. Blue refractors, numbered to 150, have pushed to the $4,000 level in the similar BGS 9.5 grade.
Kershaw now has an odd looking autograph that resembles hieroglyphics with dominant angular letters; one that is a little different than what you see on those early cards.
Of course, you don't have to spend thousands on a Kershaw rookie card. Non-autographed base cards can still be had for just a few bucks, but for the long haul, buying the best you can afford is usually good advice. His 'official' rookie cards are actually from 2008 when he made his MLB debut and among those, the 2008 Bowman Sterling Kershaw may be your best bet. The Sterling card seems to be the most difficult to locate in high grade.
Like all popular players of the era, Kershaw has a large quantity and variety of memorabilia and autograph cards. With Sandy Koufax joining the roster of stars signing cards for Topps, Koufax and Kershaw have appeared on a few autograph cards together, that have become increasingly popular as the two careers have paralleled. If Kershaw lives up to the big contract those dual autographs could be very valuable.
Below is a list of the hottest Kershaw cards currently on eBay.