a playoff masterpiece Albert Pujols Jersey , the talk was it could be the last time Clayton Kershaw — who has an opt-out clause in the contract that will pay him $65 million the next two years — wears the Dodgers home whites.That would be bad for the Dodgers on two fronts.No. 1, it would mean they lose the next two games in Milwaukee and fall short of the World Series. No. 2, it would mean they lose a pitcher who is in the conversation just after Sandy Koufax when it comes to the all-time Dodger greats.Don’t fear, Dodger fans. It’s highly doubtful Kershaw is going anywhere.The ace lefty was coy talking about possible free agency before his start Wednesday in Los Angeles, when he redeemed himself for a dismal performance in Game 1 of the NLCS by pitching three-hit ball over seven innings as the Dodgers moved within a game of the World Series with a 5-2 win.He said the kind of things a player is supposed to say to avoid tipping off his thoughts or alienating any of his fans.“I have not made a decision,” Kershaw said. “And to my understanding you get 10 days after the World Series. So should be a busy 10 days.”Kershaw has the contractual right to opt out of the seven-year deal signed in 2014 that pays him $215 million, and to use the leverage that comes with it. That’s likely, at the very least, to get him a few more years at the same kind of money he’s making today.Make no mistake about it, that money is huge. Kershaw is making $34 million this year, putting him just behind Angels outfielder Mike Trout after leading the highest-paid list for the previous three years.And, for the most part, Kershaw has earned his pay. He’s an astonishing 153-69 in 11 years as a Dodger, with an ERA of 2.39 and a WAR (wins above replacement) of 62.1.But his innings are in decline, partly because of injury and partly because of the way baseball is evolving. Kershaw’s ERA has inched up as his fastball has gone down in velocity, and he’s no longer the automatic win Dodger fans pencil him in for every time he takes the mound.By itself, that might not be enough for teams to pass on emptying the wallet to sign him. There aren’t many impact players like Kershaw, and the idea of him taking the mound every five days would have any general manager salivating.But baseball doesn’t value the starting pitcher like it used to, which was on display in Wednesday’s game when Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell removed starter Wade Miley after just five pitches. The move was unconventional and made mostly because Counsell hoped the Dodgers would load their lineup with right-handed hitters, but the trend across baseball is toward using starters less and replacing them with multiple relievers.Fox analyst and Hall of Famer John Smoltz believes the analytical age is causing teams to rethink the traditional rotation. It’s cheaper — and sometimes more effective — to have pitchers throw as hard as they can for as long as they can, he says, and then replace them with another pitcher who can do the same.“It’s hard-pressed for me to think that at the end of the day this is not just a cheaper version of baseball,” Smoltz said earlier this year. “You can operate your team paying guys less and utilizing them in their younger years when they’re not making so much. Burn and churn and just keep shuffling the deck in the bullpen.”Kershaw’s value to the Dodgers was also questioned when he was passed over as Game 1 starter in the division series against Atlanta. Kershaw was miffed, then went out to pitch eight innings of two-hit ball to win Game 2.But he stumbled when picked to start the NLCS, not getting an out in the fourth inning before being pulled. And while he rebounded against the Brewers in Game 5, the knock on Kershaw is that, for all his greatness, he has underperformed at crucial times in the postseason and has yet to deliver the Dodgers a World Series title.That could change in the next two weeks as the Dodgers chase their first championship in 30 years. It might also convince the Dodgers to add as many years onto Kershaw’s contract as he will likely want.It will be money well spent, because Kershaw is as much an institution in LA as the great Dodger pitchers of the past. Vin Scully himself has compared him to Koufax except, of course, for the fact Koufax won three World Series rings in Los Angeles.No matter what happens in Milwaukee, though, expect Kershaw to remain a Dodger for years to come.____Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg Chicago Cubs:RHP Trevor Clifton(AA/AAA: 20 GS, 5-6, 3.35 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 42 BB, 86 K, 104.2 IP)Once viewed as one of the better arms in a pitching-thin Cubs system, Trevor Clifton saw his stock tumble last season when he went 5-8 with a 5.20 ERA and 1.57 WHIP over 100.1 innings at Double-A.MLB.com explained: "He entered last year as the best mound prospect in the upper levels of the system, but returning nearby where he grew up to pitch for Double-A Tennessee proved to be too much of a distraction. He got hammered to the tune of a 7.99 ERA during the final three months, earning a mandate from club officials to get stronger mentally and physically."It appears he's done just that, as an excellent start back at Double-A has earned him his first taste of Triple-A action. The Cubs have already turned to Duane Underwood http://www.stlouiscardinalsteamshop.com/authentic-marcell-ozuna-jersey , Jen-Ho Tseng and Luke Farrell for spot starts with little success, so don't be surprised if Clifton is next.Cincinnati Reds:RHP Jimmy Herget(AAA: 41 G, 1-2, 2.77 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 20 BB, 54 K, 48.2 IP)The bullpen has been a strength this season for the rebuilding Reds. They rank 16th in the majors with a 4.04 ERA as a group, and while that might not sound like much, it's a stark improvement over the 4.65 ERA they posted a season ago.Unfortunately, that stability has meant fewer opportunities for someone like Jimmy Herget.A Futures Game participant in 2017, Herget is MLB-ready with a mid-90s fastball, plus slider and a deceptive delivery that helps his already solid stuff play up.The 24-year-old will need to be added to the 40-man roster this winter anyway to be protected from the Rule 5 draft, so that should increase his chances of earning a late promotion.Milwaukee Brewers:LHP Quintin Torres-Costa(AA/AAA: 34 G, 4 SV, 1.45 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 18 BB, 54 K, 43.1 IP)It's unlikely the Brewers would consider calling up top prospect Keston Hiura given the current infield logjam, and top pitching prospect Corbin Burnes is already working out of the big league bullpen, so we have to dig a bit deeper here.Aside from All-Star Josh Hader, the only lefty in the bullpen is Dan Jennings, who has been excellent in middle relief.With a number of potent lefties residing in the NL Central, it wouldn't hurt to add another southpaw to the mix for the stretch run, and Quintin Torres-Costa looks like the leading candidate.A late-round find as a 35th-round pick out of Waiakea High School in Hawaii in 2015, Torres-Costa showed well in the Arizona Fall League last year (10 G, 4.50 ERA, 16 K, 14.0 IP), and he's continued to impress against upper-level competition.Pittsburgh Pirates:RHP Clay Holmes(A+/AAA: 17 GS, 7-3, 3.30 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 38 BB, 100 K, 95.1 IP)The Pirates added a major weapon to the bullpen when they acquired Keone Kela from the Rangers at the trade deadline, but there's still room to improve a unit that ranks 19th in the majors with a 4.21 ERA.While Clay Holmes has been used almost exclusively as a starter since he was selected in the ninth round of the 2011 draft, he has the stuff to be an asset out of the bullpen, even if it's just a temporary move.To that point, MLB.com wrote: "There has been talk about moving Holmes to the bullpen, where that sinker-cutter combination could be extremely effective.For now, he'll likely keep starting as rotation depth so he can fill any kind of role once the need arises in Pittsburgh."The immediate need is in the bullpen Roger Maris Jersey , and he's ready to help.St. Louis Cardinals:RHP Giovanny Gallegos(AAA: 20 G, 2 SV, 3.41 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 10 BB, 44 K, 31.2 IP)Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos were both acquired in the deal that sent slugging first baseman Luke Voit to the Yankees ahead of the trade deadline. The Cardinals slotted Shreve in the big league bullpen immediately, and Gallegos should soon follow.The 26-year-old has punched out 169 batters in 123 innings at the Triple-A level over parts of the last four seasons, posting a 2.12 ERA and 0.94 WHIP along the way.His fastball/curveball gives him legitimate swing-and-miss stuff and he's already a member of the 40-man roster, so expect to see him in St. Louis at some point before the season is over.NL West6 of 6Shaun AndersonRob Carr/Getty ImagesArizona Diamondbacks:RHP Jimmie Sherfy(AAA: 31 G, 14 SV, 1.30 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 15 BB, 48 K, 34.2 IP)It's a bit puzzling that Jimmie Sherfy has not gotten more of a chance at the MLB level.The 26-year-old was lights-out during the 2017season, posting a 3.12 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 11.2 K/9 in 44 appearances at Triple-A before capping off the year with 10.2 scoreless innings out of the big league bullpen.He's continued to dominate Triple-A hitters this season with his 70-grade fastball and plus curveball, yet he's seen just four innings of work in the majors.The deadline additions of Brad Ziegler and Jake Diekman won't make it any easier for Sherfy to find work. Contenders can always use more bullpen help for the stretch run though, and he'll be ready when the need arises.Colorado Rockies:RHP Peter Lambert(AA/AAA: 21 GS, 10-5, 2.82 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 91 K, 121.1 IP)With Chad Bettis looking extremely rusty in his return to action (4.2 IP, 8 H, 9 ER), the Rockies might need to consider other options for the rotation if he doesn't improve quickly.Peter Lambert is the top pitching prospect in the system, and he's enjoying a breakout season in the upper levels of the minors that hasvaulted him into the top-100 prospect conversation.MLB.com wrote: "Lambert shows the potential for four pitches that could be at least solid. His fastball sits at 92-94 mph and peaks at 96, and he keeps it off barrels with sink, angle and very good command. His tumbling changeup may be his most consistent plus pitch, though his low-80s curveball can be even better than that at times."His 4.71 ERA and 1.79 WHIP in six starts since being promoted to Triple-A gives some reason for pause, but that's largely a result of one brutal start (1.1 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 2 ER), and there's little doubt he's capable of making a major impact at the next level.Los Angeles Dodgers:OF Alex Verdugo(AAA: 310 PA, .345/.397/.489, 25 XBH,8 HR, 40 RBI, 36 R)Matt Kemp (64 PA, .179 BA Matt Carpenter Jersey , .569 OPS) and Kike Hernandez (51 PA, .146 BA, .409 OPS) have gone ice cold at the plate since the All-Star break, yet both players continue to see regular playing time in the Dodgers outfield.Meanwhile, top prospect Alex Verdugo has once again owned Triple-A pitching, while also posting a .280/.345/.440 line in 56 plate appearances scattered over a handful of call-ups to the majors.The strong first-half performance from Kemp was a pleasant surprise and Hernandez is a valuable utility option off the bench, but if the Dodgers are serious about winning a title, they need to consider giving Verdugo a regular role down the stretch.The status quo doesn't make sense when guys aren't hitting. San Diego Padres:2B Luis Urias(AAA: 461 PA, .273/.383/.415, 35 XBH,8 HR, 39 RBI, 68 R)Is Luis Urias ready to take over the everyday second base job in 2019?That's a question that will need to be answered, and giving the 21-year-old an extended look the rest of the way could help provide some clarity.Carlos Asuaje (209 PA, .198 BA, .569 OPS), Cory Spangenberg (219 PA, .238 BA, .652 OPS) and Jose Pirela (398 PA, .251 BA, .647 OPS) are not long-term pieces of the puzzle.Meanwhile, with a 70-grade hit tool, plus speed and the glove to play on either side of second base, Urias has a chance to be a cornerstone piece in San Diego.San Francisco Giants:RHP Shaun Anderson(AA/AAA: 20 GS, 7-7, 3.74 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 32 BB, 108 K, 118.0 IP)The Giants have been forced to cobble together a starting rotation for much of the season, and with Johnny Cueto lost for the year to Tommy John surgery, that figures to continue the rest of the way.Shaun Anderson has emerged as the best pitching prospect in the system this season, and after earning a promotion to Triple-A, he's knocking on the door.The 23-year-old "has the look of a durable No. 3 starter," according to MLB.com, and giving him a chance to prove himself down the stretch could have an impact on the team's offseason plans. Shoring up the starting staff figures to be a priority, but if Anderson shows well, perhaps they can focus their attention elsewhere. All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, and accurate through Aug. 7.