The White Sox announced Thursday that reliever Joe Kelly has been placed on the 15-day injured list due to inflammation in his right elbow. The move is retroactive to July 5. Fellow righty Nick Padilla was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte in a corresponding move, and the ChiSox also added right-hander Jimmy Lambert as the 27th man for today’s doubleheader.
Kelly’s injury comes with the trade deadline just under four weeks away and as his White Sox increasingly look like sellers. Chicago is seven and a half games out of first place in the AL Central, and while they’ve improved since an awful April, the gains haven’t been significant enough to position themselves as a strong contender. A healthy Kelly could well find himself on the trade market, but this move complicates any efforts to find a taker and, if he’s not back by Aug. 1, could keep him off the market entirely.
The 2023 season has been a mixed bag for Kelly. The right-hander owns an ugly 4.82 ERA in 28 innings out of Pedro Grifol’s bullpen, but his 30.8% strikeout rate, 8.3% walk rate, 12.7% swinging strike rate and huge 56.9% ground-ball rate are all far more appealing. Fielding-independent metrics like SIERA (2.90) and FIP (3.22) feel Kelly’s performance has been far better than his baseline run-prevention numbers would suggest.
Kelly is playing out the second season of a two-year, $17MM contract, so he’s not exactly a bargain even at full strength and peak effectiveness. That contract carries a club option with a net $8.5MM price, which seems unlikely to be exercised at this point given Kelly’s ERA and now a pair of trips to the injured list. (The other was in April due to a groin strain.) He has enough track record that a quick return from the IL and strong finish to the season could change that outlook, however.
For the time being, with Kelly joining Liam Hendriks on the shelf, the White Sox will lean more heavily on the quartet of Kendall Graveman, Keynan Middleton, Reynaldo Lopez and Aaron Bummer in late-inning situations.