Right-hander Shawn Kelley’s market has begun to heat up, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, who adds that Kelley is likely to be one of the next relief pitchers to come off the board (Twitter link). While Kelley’s name hasn’t frequented headlines this offseason, he’s nonetheless coming off a quietly brilliant season in San Diego. His track record of missing bats and serving as a durable source of innings should serve him well in what has been an aggressive market for relievers.
Kelley, 31, pitched to a 2.45 ERA with 11.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a career-best 42.7 percent ground-ball rate in 51 1/3 innings for the Padres this past season. Over the past four seasons, Kelley has worked collectively to a 3.68 ERA and averaged 11 strikeouts against 3.3 walks per nine innings pitched. Fielding independent pitching metrics are significantly higher on his work than his ERA, with SIERA in particular pegging Kelley in the 2.60 range to do his solid control and abundance of missed bats.
Kelley doesn’t throw exceptionally hard, averaging about 92 mph on his fastball, but he throws a huge number of sliders — more than half his pitches have been sliders over the past three seasons — and has generated a swinging-strike rate of 14.8 percent over the past two seasons as a result (league average in that time is about 9.7 percent).
Considering the strong market for relief arms — Ryan Madson has agreed to a three-year, $22MM deal and Mark Lowe has agreed to a two-year, $13MM deal in the past day and a half — I’d imagine that Kelley is potentially in line for a three-year deal. He’s represented by the same agency that brokered Lowe’s deal with the Tigers, Frye McCann Sports, so agent Mike McCann has very likely been discussing both clients with multiple clubs over the course of the offseason.