On Saturday afternoon, the Los Angeles Dodgers declined the $12 million option on Joe Kelly’s contract for the 2022 season. Now, with a $4 million buyout in hand, Kelly heads to the open market to see where he will pitch next.
Could Joe Kelly return to the Los Angeles Dodgers?
Completing his third season in Los Angeles, the 33-year-old right-hander has become not only a favorite of the Dodger faithful because of his encounter with Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros during the 2020 season where the infamous “pouty face” viral video and meme was born, but also because of his ability to succeed in a variety of roles with the team, ranging from opener to closer.
Kelly even had his own mural created not far from Dodger Stadium, showing just how deep the impact of that moment was in Los Angeles.
Those moments, however, seemingly can’t overcome the concern about the right biceps strain suffered by Kelly during the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves. According to some reports, Kelly might not be ready for the start of the 2022 campaign, which greatly dampens his value to the Dodgers and other MLB clubs. However, news in recent days says Kelly will be ready for spring training.
Regardless of the timeline, there will be plenty of teams who are interested in bringing Kelly on board, especially after a season where Kelly put together an ERA+ of 144 and WHIP of 0.977. In 44.0 innings, Kelly fanned 50 and allowed just 28 hits.
Put that together with his efforts during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign (including his run-in with Correa) and Kelly totaled a 2.67 ERA and struck out 26.3 percent of the batters he faced.
One team that may be interested in Kelly is the Boston Red Sox, a franchise very familiar with him after he spent five seasons in the Red Sox bullpen. Kelly is a former third-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals and debuted with them on June 10, 2012.
The Los Angeles bullpen faces a lot of questions this offseason, with Kelly now in limbo and Kenley Jansen, Corey Knebel, and Jimmy Nelson (who underwent season-ending elbow surgery) all potentially leaving in free agency as well.
Could Los Angeles potentially bring Kelly back on a more budget-friendly deal? That looks to be the only way that Kelly will be taking the mound for the Dodgers next season.