The Rangers have spoken to the Red Sox about right-hander Joe Kelly, reports MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan (via Twitter), who adds that Rays lefty Drew Smyly is another potential target for the Rangers. Meanwhile, the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo tweets that the Rangers are “very interested” in Kelly. Rob Bradford of WEEI spoke with Kelly himself, who acknowledged the possibility that he could be moved due to Boston’s rotation surplus.
Kelly, 27, struggled tremendously in his first 14 starts with Boston, logging a 5.67 ERA that prompted a demotion to the minors. Upon returning, Kelly pitched to a much-improved 3.77 ERA with a 50-to-18 K/BB ratio in 11 starts, including an impressive 2.35 mark across his final eight outings of the season. Kelly also averaged 95.4 mph on his fastball, ranking him among the game’s hardest-throwing starters, and can be controlled for three more seasons via the arbitration process. If Texas, or any other club, believes that his end-of-season production is sustainable, he’s certainly an appealing trade chip. And, of course, many have long believed that Kelly could thrive in a bullpen role, which would be a nice fallback option for any team should he not pan out in the rotation.
The 26-year-old Smyly stands out as another reasonable rotation target for the Rangers. Like Kelly, he’s controllable through the 2018 season, though he’s coming off a season that was significantly shortened by a small labral tear in his left shoulder. Smyly threw just 66 1/3 innings for the Rays in 2015, although they were high in quality, as has come to be the expectation. Smyly logged a 3.11 ERA with 10.4 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9 to go along with a 36.8 percent ground-ball rate. While the Rays have already moved one starter this winter in Nate Karns, reports have indicated over the past month that they’re open to moving another arm.