The Dodgers declined a $12MM option on right-hander Joe Kelly in favor of a $4MM buyout after the right-hander suffered a biceps strain during the Dodgers’ NLCS showdown against the eventual World Series-champion Braves. Kelly hit the free agent market for the second time in his career and did not sign prior to the league’s implementation of a lockout on Dec. 2. He’s since been rumored to be a post-lockout target of the Cardinals, Kelly said today in a radio appearance on 570 LA Sports that he hopes to remain in Los Angeles (Twitter link, with audio).
“As with the whole lockout, once it’s over… teams are going to be signing,” Kelly said to host David Vassegh. “The signing period’s going to be like basketball. People are going to be signing at 4:00 in the morning. But obviously, I want to come back and be a Dodger — and the interest is mutual, so we’ve got to make something happen.”
Kelly’s mention of mutual interest — presumably in reference to interest shown by the Dodgers prior to the lockout — is the most concrete indicator to date of a possible reunion between the two parties. Interest on L.A.’s behalf is only natural, as the Dodgers are currently facing the potential of losing not only Kelly but also Kenley Jansen, Corey Knebel (who already signed in Philadelphia) and Jimmy Nelson to free agency. That quartet combined for 167 2/3 innings of strong relief work out of Dave Roberts’ bullpen.
The 33-year-old Kelly, in particular, enjoyed a nice rebound campaign in 2021 after being limited to 10 innings in 2020. Although he missed the first five weeks of the 2021 season due to a shoulder injury, Kelly returned with one of the finest showings of his decade-long big league career. In 44 innings, he pitched to a 2.86 ERA (3.08 FIP, 3.o9 SIERA) with a strong 27.5% strikeout rate, an 8.2% walk rate and a huge 58.9% ground-ball rate. His average heater was down a tick from its 99.1 mph peak, but Kelly’s 98.1 average fastball velocity represented a bump from his 2019-20 levels.
Generally speaking, Kelly is one of baseball’s hardest-throwing relievers. He has, at various points throughout his career, flashed huge strikeout capabilities, strong command and high-end ground-ball tendencies — but rarely all at the same time. Those three traits coalesced in 2021 more than at any point throughout his career, after the Dodgers helped take Kelly’s grounder rate from above-average (49.9% from 2012-18) to outstanding during his time in blue (59.9%).
A pair of IL stints due to shoulder troubles kept Kelly off the mound more than he or the team would’ve liked during his three-year stint as a Dodger, but the overall body of work was sound. In 105 1/3 innings, Kelly posted a 3.59 ERA with a 121-to-44 K/BB ratio (26.9 K%, 9.8 BB%), 21 holds and three saves. Many of this offseason’s top relievers — e.g. Raisel Iglesias, Knebel, Kendall Graveman — are already off the market, so Kelly should be among the more desirable options still left in free agency whenever the lockout lifts.
As for his current health, Kelly noted that he’s already throwing multiple times per week, albeit not off a mound. He’s playing catch and long toss right now but stated that his arm is “definitely going to be ready for the season” — whenever the season begins.
Every Dodgers free agent should sign with the Rangers.
Please, Hammer. Don't hurt 'em.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a pitcher post a SIERA of 3.o9.
My guess he resigns with Dodgers. He has a house in the suburbs about 30 mins from where he grew up. He is established in the community there I have seen him several times at in and out and he just blends in. He is is beloved by Dodgers fans, for his edginess and hatred towards the Astros.
Come to the Angels. We could use another solid late inning reliever.
FredMcGriff for the HOF
Joe Kelly will be 34 most of the season (if there is one…). His big money days may be over. Plus he’s coming off a injury. I’m sure he would like a big money team like the Dodgers or Mets to sign him as they can afford to pay top dollar.
I’d like to see him back with the Cardinals if this was 2016 and he was 6 years younger. I think ultimately he’s gonna want to much and the Cardinals should in no way pay that, if any large market team is dumb enough to than let them. My stance on free agency especially veteran relievers cause they never work out for the Cardinals, Gregerson, Holland, Miller, Cecil, to name a few.
The biggest Karen of all wanting to play for Los Karens. Not a surprise.
Tell me your butt hurts without telling me your butt hurts.
Ouch. I just sat down.
Whichever team he joins I hope he faces the Astros a lot.
Too bad Correa won’t be there anymore, to give him the beating he deserved before he ran back to the dugout to hide.
@Rocker49- Just keep Correa as far away from the Yankees as possible. I don’t care let, the RedSox sign him for $400 million, just as long as I don’t have to watch him playing on my favorite team.
Correa will end up playing for the Albuquerque Desert Dogs once they join the league. Bregman will follow.
Steven St Croix
Joe Kelly is clown shoes
Rocker 49: yeah that would happen. The cheater Correa would probably pull a hamstring or break a fingernail just before he reached Joe K.
Considering Joe Karen Kelly is built like a twig lol!
@Rocker49….Maybe you’re just jealous the Kelly kiss want meant for you
@paddyo875- truly doubt it. Correa is a cheater and a clown. Nobody likes him. I don’t want him on the team I root for. He disrespected a Yankee Legend. He’s definitely a dope.
I wouldn’t mind Kelly on the Yankees depending on where Carlosina Correa signs. That would make for an excellent game.
I understand that every potential FA says they would be open to re-signing with there current team, but saying so after becoming a FA is basically saying if you are not the Dodgers, don’t bother. His agent must be estatic.
MOST teams could use Kelly’s arm, even at his age. Just none of them will pay $10 mil + to do it.
Well since nobody has ever paid him that much before you’re probably right.
Or does it say “offer me more money because I wanna be a Dodger”
It doesn’t really matter what he says as long as it isn’t derogatory.
How often does a free agent say they don’t want to continue playing for their former team?
Chief Two Hands
There is a difference between people saying they don’t want to continue playing for their former team and simply not listing a preference at all. Saying one prefers to stay with his former team is not the only approach available. Kelly could have simply said he is keeping his options open, for example. My guess is that his statement about wanting to remain with the Dodgers is more than common lip service. It will be interesting to see how much of a pay cut he would be willing to take in order to make that happen, though. If the Dodgers do lose Jansen, (which wouldn’t bother me much), they will likely be willing to pay Kelly more simply due to a need to strengthen the bullpen, but I imagine there would still be a significant cut in his salary.
He didn’t list anything really, he was asked in an interview on an LA radio station whether he was interested in staying with the Dodgers. The standard answer to that sort of question in that sort of venue is always “of course,” and it’s so standard it would be news if he’d said anything else. The way I look at it anyway. On whether the Dodgers do sign him back, sure it could happen, but while this article doesn’t mention it, the bullpen will gain two good arms coming back from the IL, Kahnale and Ferguson, and it also didn’t mention the signing of Hudson, so it remains to be seen if the Dodgers will go after any new bullpen arms.
Chief Two Hands
I found his comment about the interest in his return being mutual between him and the Dodgers to be another indication that it was more than a standard answer, as well.. I’ll be interested to see if that is true, but it doesn’t sound like something a player would just throw out there if it is completely baseless. My guess is that the Dodgers would like to have him back, but at a lower cost. If he gets a better offer elsewhere, I assume the Dodgers would be willing to let him walk rather than pay more to meet it.
Not saying you’re wrong but the response seemed kind of generic. I don’t think he’s getting even half of what the Dodgers paid him before.
I don’t know Kelly personally, but what I’ve gleaned from him is that he isn’t big on bs. He seems to genuinely speak his mind. You need only hear his thoughts on Correa to know he isn’t the type to pay lip service.
I wasn’t on the Dodgers but I’m hoping to sign with them. I’m the ace of the beer league.
Joe should learn how to throw a punch. He won’t be playing for a while, so he’ll have plenty of time.
He should shadow Roughned Odor for a couple months, get some punches down, and he’ll be good.
Chief Two Hands
General rule…never shadow an odor.
Props to MLBTR for using the appropriate image for this article. Joe Kelly’s greatest moment.
I could see him going back to St.Louis
For me this is the biggest question going into the season for the Cards. If you are truly committed to making starters out of Alex Reyes and Jordan Hicks, then yes, there is a definite need for 2 quality bullpen arms.
Currently Gallegos, Cabrera, McFarland, Whitley and Halsley would be your top five bullpen options. That group has some potential, but definitely some question marks. Adding Kelly and KK would give you depth, balance, and the flexibility to cover some starts if needed.
That makes Jake Woodford the first man up from Memphis, but it leaves no room for Reyes or Hicks on the 26 man roster assuming everyone is fully healthy. The problem is they don’t provide great coverage against injuries because they are the two most injury prone members of the pitching staff.
No!!! I want the descendant of Machine Gun Kelly to come back to STL and pop a cap in the NLC arse. lol
If he’s chirping about the Dodgers. My guess is even though he’s got suitors. He likely has more money and possibly years coming from them than any other team his agent has had talks with.
$4M Buyout!? Wow. Seems high right? A perfect 1/3 of the total team option? Dang…
lumber and lighting
Huge fan favorite and his teammates love his crazy arse
He does fit perfectly on Los Karens, since he is the biggest Karen of them all 🙂