Right-hander Casey Kelly has re-signed with the LG Twins of the Korea Baseball Organization, reports Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News. Kelly will receive a base salary of $1.2MM, with a further $300K available in incentives. The Twins also signed Adam Plutko a few days ago, bringing them up to the maximum of two foreign pitchers. As Yoo points out, this means they will not be bringing back left-hander Andrew Suarez.
Kelly was a highly-touted youngster, being a first-round draft pick of the Red Sox in 2008. Boston gave Kelly a bonus of $3MM, which was a franchise record at the time. He quickly came to be considered one of the top prospects in the game, appearing on Baseball America’s Top 100 for four consecutive seasons from 2010 to 2013 and headlining the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox.
The righty made his debut with the Padres in 2012 but had to be shut down due to Tommy John surgery after just six starts. He eventually made it back to the big leagues for brief stints with San Diego in 2015 and Atlanta in 2016, but with uninspiring results. He then had a nice showing with the Giants in 2018, logging an ERA of 3.04 over 23 2/3 innings.
That run with the Giants was enough to pique the interest of the LG Twins, who brought Kelly to Korea for 2019. Since then, Kelly has got into a groove and thrived, spurring rumors each year that he would be considering a return to MLB. In 2019, he threw 180 1/3 innings over 29 starts, putting up an ERA of 2.55. In 2020 and 2021, his ERA slipped just over 3.00, but he still made at least 28 starts and threw over 170 innings in each campaign. In total, over the three seasons with the Twins, he’s thrown 525 1/3 innings with an ERA of 2.96. That sort of consistent production has drawn the attention of MLB teams, but the 32-year-old is staying in Korea for a fourth straight season.
As for Suarez, he will no longer have a place on the Twins’ roster. The southpaw was a second-round pick of the Giants in 2015 and made his MLB debut in 2018. He made 29 starts that year and logged 160 1/3 innings with an ERA of 4.49. 2019 was a bit of a setback, as he bounced between Triple-A and the big leagues, with an ERA close to 6.00 at each level. With 2020’s shortened MLB campaign and canceled minor league season, he was frequently optioned and only got to throw 9 2/3 innings.
He signed with the LG Twins for 2021 and seemed to get back on track, appearing in 23 games, 22 of them starts, with an ERA of 2.18 and 126 strikeouts over 115 1/3 innings. Despite that strong showing, the club has seemingly moved on to Plutko, which leaves Suarez available to pursue other opportunities. Given that Suarez is just 29 years old and coming off a strong campaign, he should garner plenty of interest from other clubs.