LOS ANGELES – As expected, the Dodgers 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 had shoulder surgery to remove a cyst last offseason, had his best season with the Dodgers in 2021 upon his return in May. The right-hander posted a 2.86 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP, a new career record. He had a slight increase in speed and made his change 115 times, the most since joining the Dodgers in 2019.
Kelly’s season, however, ended in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the Braves with a right bicep injury. As first reported by The Los Angeles Times, Kelly’s injury was initially considered serious, but further tests revealed it was not as serious as the Dodgers feared. He is expected to be in good health during spring training.
Although the Dodgers have declined Kelly’s option, there should be mutual interest in a return. Kelly was an integral part of one of the best enclosures in the Majors. He has also become a fan favorite. With the $ 4 million buyout, the Dodgers could take Kelly back to 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 was 7-4 with a 3.59 ERA. He struck out 121 batters in 105 1/3 inning.
If the two sides fail to come to an agreement during the offseason, the Dodgers should still have plenty of options in the relieving pen. Brusdar Graterol has continued to develop and looks like a pitcher ready for an increased role. The club still have Blake Treinen, one of the Majors’ most dominant right-hangers. The Dodgers will also get right-hander Tommy Kahnle back after missing Season 21 while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Kenley Jansen and Corey Knebel, however, are free agents. In total, the Dodgers now have 12 leading free agents at the start of 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 knocked out left-hander Scott Alexander, right-hander Jimmie Sherfy and infielder Andy Burns from the 40-man roster, making them free agents. Sherfy, however, has agreed to stay with the organization. Los Angeles’ 40-man roster is now at 36.