It’s sure a good thing the Los Angeles Dodgers don’t really care about blowing money, because at this point fans probably have to admit that signing Joe Kelly is one of the bigger free agency busts for the franchise in recent memory.
However, this is not Kelly’s fault whatsoever.
He cashed in when he had the opportunity to do so, and nobody will blame him for that.
It’s all about the players taking home the dough at the end of the day.
This squarely falls on the Dodgers front office’s shoulders. Aside from a lights out 2017 regular season campaign and a blistering performance in the 2018 playoffs (that helped the Red Sox win a World Series), Kelly didn’t have much to show for across his overall body of work.
But the Dodgers took the bait. The right-hander endured a career-worst (as a full-time reliever) 2019 campaign, dealt with injuries that limited him in 2020, appeared in just 3.2 postseason innings during the team’s World Series run, and is now hampered by an undisclosed injury.
Yup, not expected to be ready for Opening Day despite throwing a grand total of 13.2 innings last year. That three-year, $25 million deal (which can hit $33 million if Kelly meets certain incentives), is unfortunately looking worse by the day.
Kelly’s two most effective years as a reliever featured a four-pitch mix: a fastball that averaged between 98-99 MPH, a slider, a curveball and a changeup. Since arriving in LA, he abandoned his slider, which accounted for 14.5% of his thrown pitches throughout his tenure in Boston, and it’s clear his effectiveness declined drastically.
Now, the only out the Dodgers have here is eating a $4 million buyout next offseason instead of exercising his $12 million team option. Given the uncertainty regarding his injury, status for Opening Day, and stamina for a full 162-game slate, you can bet the Dodgers will have to cut their losses.
Though fans are hoping he rebounds and gets back on track, he’ll need a hell of a campaign to prove he’s worth that $12 million in an offseason in which LA will have to take care of Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager.
The good news? The Dodgers ended up winning the World Series last year and Kelly delivered arguably the greatest moment of the campaign when he threw at both Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa, trash talked the Houston Astros, and got ejected for all of the above.
Those two outcomes alone are worth $25 million.