Manager Tony La Russa Was ‘Driving Force’ Behind Joe Kelly Signing With White Sox

Joe Kelly became a free agent at the start of the offseason after the Los Angeles Dodgers declined his $12 million team option for the 2022 season in favor of paying a $4 million buyout.

President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman soon after said the club intended to be heavily involved in trying to re-sign Kelly. The right-hander later expressed strong interest in a reunion as well.

However, that scenario never came to be as the Chicago White Sox signed Kelly to a two-year, $17 million contract last week. The deal includes a team option for the 2024 regular season.

According to David Vassegh of AM 570 L.A. Sports, White Sox manager Tony La Russa played a significant role in Kelly’s decision to leave the Dodgers:

After being a key contributor in the Dodgers bullpen over the past three seasons, Kelly now joins a talented White Sox relief corps that includes Liam Hendriks, Craig Kimbrel, Kendall Graveman and Garrett Crochet.

Kelly went 7-4 with three saves, a 3.59 ERA, 3.46 FIP and 1.23 WHIP across 115 games (one start) during his three seasons with the Dodgers. He enjoyed his most successful campaign with L.A. last year as he posted a 2.86 ERA, 3.08 FIP and 0.98 WHIP in 44 innings over 48 games.

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.

The 33-year-old recently said he was throwing on a regular basis and recovering well. There was initial concern the injury would require surgery.

Kelly could pitch against Dodgers in 2022

If not during Cactus League play, the Dodgers may get a look at Kelly 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.

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