LA declines Kelly's option; reunion on table
LOS ANGELES -- As expected, the Dodgers have declined reliever Joe Kelly's $12 million club option for the 2022 season. Instead, they will pay him a $4 million buyout. The right-hander is now a free agent.
Kelly, who underwent shoulder surgery to remove a cyst last offseason, had his best season with the Dodgers in 2021 once he returned in May. The right-hander posted a 2.86 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP, a new career best. He had a slight increase in velocity and threw his changeup 115 times, the most since he joined the Dodgers in 2019.
Kelly's season, however, came to an end in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series against the Braves due to a right biceps injury. As first reported by the Los Angeles Times, Kelly’s injury was initially believed to be serious, but more tests revealed that it wasn’t as severe as the Dodgers feared. He is expected to be fully healthy in Spring Training.
Despite the Dodgers declining Kelly’s option, there is expected to be mutual interest for a return. Kelly was an integral part of one of the best bullpens in the Majors. He also became a fan favorite. With the $4 million buyout, the Dodgers could bring Kelly back at a lower salary for payroll purposes, while the right-hander would still earn the same total in 2022.
In three seasons with the Dodgers, Kelly went 7-4 with a 3.59 ERA. He struck out 121 batters in 105 1/3 innings.
If the two sides don’t come to terms during the offseason, the Dodgers should still have plenty of options in the bullpen. Brusdar Graterol continued his development and looks like a pitcher ready for an increased role. The club still has Blake Treinen, one of the most dominant right-handers in the Majors. The Dodgers will also get right-hander Tommy Kahnle back after he missed the ‘21 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Kenley Jansen and Corey Knebel, however, are free agents. In total, the Dodgers now have 12 prominent free agents as they begin the offseason. Earlier this week, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, Max Scherzer, Jimmy Nelson, Albert Pujols, Steven Souza Jr., Danny Duffy, Cole Hamels, Jansen and Knebel all officially became free agents.
The Dodgers also outrighted left-hander Scott Alexander, right-hander Jimmie Sherfy and infielder Andy Burns off the 40-man roster, making them free agents. Sherfy, however, has agreed to remain with the organization. Los Angeles’ 40-man roster is now at 36.