Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen provided details on two of the team’s three option decisions, as Hazen told The Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro that the D’Backs will exercise their $5.25MM club option on righty Merrill Kelly and decline their $9MM club option on outfielder Kole Calhoun. The fate of Tyler Clippard’s $3.5MM mutual option (with a $500K buyout) is still undecided, Hazen said.
There wasn’t much suspense in either decision, as Kelly had a pretty solid year in his return from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. Kelly posted a 4.44 ERA over 158 innings, delivering his usual quality walk rate to help offset a lot of hard contact and a below-average strikeout rate. The Diamondbacks are hoping Kelly can match or better this performance in 2022 as the team looks for more stability in the rotation.
Next season will be the final year of Arizona’s control over Kelly, as per the two-year, $5.5MM contract with two club options that he signed back in December 2018. With this final option year now exercised, the deal will work out to a four-year, $14.5MM pact.
Calhoun signed a two-year, $16MM free agent to join his hometown D’Backs during the 2019-20 offseason, and hit .226/.338/.526 with 16 home runs over 228 plate appearances in the shortened 2020 season. That solid performance was followed up by an injury-plagued 2021, as Calhoun underwent a knee surgery in Spring Training and then a left hamstring surgery less than two months later. His rehab from that second procedure was extended by a setback, and Calhoun also spent another month on the IL with a strain in that same left hamstring late in the year.
All told, Calhoun appeared in only 51 games and hit .235/.297/.373 over 182 PA. Calhoun might have been a trade chip had he been healthy, either back in July at the trade deadline or perhaps this winter, if he’d hit well enough for the Diamondbacks to exercise that club option. Instead, the D’Backs will buy out that $9MM option for $2MM and Calhoun will hit the market in advance of his age-34 season.
A return to Arizona could be unlikely, as while Hazen praised Calhoun for being “awesome for us in and out of the clubhouse,” the D’Backs already have quite a few left-handed outfield options. Calhoun hit both left-handed and right-handed pitching pretty evenly for a lot of his career, but over the last three seasons has developed more traditional splits. It seems likely that Calhoun will catch on with another team in need of some veteran pop from the left side of the plate, and Calhoun’s right field glovework has remained pretty good, even amidst all his leg injuries in 2021.