LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers on Friday made official the signing of right-handed reliever Joe Kelly to a three-year contract, with a corresponding roster move expected to be made later in the day.Kelly received a three-year contract with a 2022 option. He will receive a minimum of $25 million and
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers on Friday made official the signing of right-handed reliever Joe Kelly to a three-year contract, with a corresponding roster move expected to be made later in the day.
Kelly received a three-year contract with a 2022 option. He will receive a minimum of $25 million and as much as $33 million, plus incentives for games finished. He gives the Dodgers the bullpen upgrade needed to support closer Kenley Jansen, who is recovering from his second heart procedure in six years. Jansen is expected to be ready for Spring Training.
• Dodgers hope Kelly's 'great stuff' turns into results
Kelly's signing checks off the bullpen box on the club's offseason needs list. The focus now is finding a veteran catcher (perhaps J.T. Realmuto?) and maybe a World Series difference maker (Bryce Harper or Corey Kluber?)
During an interview with WEEI in Boston, Kelly said the Dodgers were the only team that offered a three-year deal. He said he was "blown away" during a meeting with club president Andrew Friedman.
Kelly, 30, is a Southern Californian who grew up eating Dodger Dogs in the left-field pavilion, and he went on to beat the Dodgers in the World Series in October as a member of the Red Sox.
In the regular season, Kelly was 4-2 with a 4.39 ERA and a 1.355 WHIP. He appeared in 73 games, fourth in the American League. Midway through the season, Kelly lowered his hands setting up on the mound and replaced his slider and curve with a slurve, two adjustments he said resulted in his overpowering postseason. The Red Sox acquired Kelly from the Cardinals in a midseason trade in 2014.
Having seen the Dodgers lose back-to-back World Series, Kelly said "the third time's a charm," and he's eager to participate in the kind of championship parades the Dodgers haven't had since he was a 4-month-old, the kind he's watched the Lakers enjoy.
"The fans, the organization deserve it," he said.
Against the Dodgers in the World Series, Kelly appeared in all five games, pitching six scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts. Kelly allowed one run in 11 1/3 postseason innings. He relies on a fastball that averaged 98.1 mph last season with a high-spin curveball.
Current Dodgers management frequently brings in former Major League starters to be high-leverage relievers, including Joe Blanton, Brandon Morrow and Tom Koehler.
The latter was signed a year ago to help be a bullpen bridge to Jansen, but Koehler blew out his shoulder in Spring Training and missed the 2018 season. The setup role fell to a committee that included Pedro Baez, Scott Alexander, Dylan Floro, Ryan Madson, JT Chargois and Josh Fields.
"I'm not dedicated to any specific role," Kelly said. "I want to pitch whenever the big outs are."
Dodgers fans might remember Kelly as a Cardinals starting pitcher, whose 2013 pitch broke the ribs of Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez and changed the trajectory of the 2013 National League Championship Series.
"I've been constantly reminded of that," Kelly said. "It was a fastball that got away, and it didn't look good. He was the best player in the playoffs at that time. But when we became teammates [in Boston], we had a big man hug and there were no hard feelings. I hope Dodgers fans are able to forgive me when we win the World Series this year."
Kelly has been primarily a reliever since returning from a right shoulder impingement in 2016. He called himself "a broken-down, washed-up starter" better suited to the immediacy of relieving.
In 2018, Kelly was suspended for six games for hitting Yankees Christopher Austin with an apparently retaliatory pitch and triggering a bench-clearing brawl. During the suspension, he watched one game from the bleachers at Fenway Park.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.