The Chicago White Sox officially signed Joe Kelly to a two-year, $17 million contract, and the deal includes a team option for the 2024 regular season. Kelly will receive $7 million this season, $9 million next year, and $9.5 million if the White Sox exercise their option for 2024.
If not, the right-hander will receive a $1 million buyout. The contract structure is similar to the three-year deal Kelly signed with the Dodgers after the 2018 season. That also included a team option, which the Dodgers declined in favor of paying a $4 million buyout.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the team would heavily pursue re-signing Kelly, who recently expressed strong interest in a reunion as well. It’s unclear if L.A. held serious negotiations with the 33-year-old prior to or after the MLB lockout.
Kelly reportedly had preliminary talks with the St. Louis Cardinals, who selected him in the third round of the 2009 MLB Draft. Kelly was primarily used as a starting pitcher in two of three seasons with the Cardinals, but had long converted to the bullpen by the time he signed with the Dodgers.
Over the past three seasons Kelly went 7-4 with three saves, a 3.59 ERA, 3.46 FIP and 1.23 WHIP across 115 games (one start). He was dominant during the shortened 2020 campaign, but Kelly otherwise is coming off his best full season with the Dodgers.
He recorded two saves and pitched to a 2.86 ERA, 3.08 FIP and 0.98 WHIP in 44 innings across 48 relief appearances. Kelly was particularly dominant to close out the season as he had a 1.59 ERA and collected 40 strikeouts over his final 37 games.
If not during Cactus League play, the Dodgers may get a look at their former teammate when facing the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field from June 7-9. There is not a return to Dodger Stadium on the 2022 schedule.
Kelly fully healthy
Kelly carried his successful stretch into the postseason but saw his year end one game before the Dodgers were eliminated in the National League Championship Series. He started Game 5 against the Atlanta Braves, only to fail to make it out of the first inning because of a right biceps injury.
Kelly recently said he was throwing on a regular basis and recovering well. There was initial concern the injury would require surgery.
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