Red Sox should try to sign Joe Kelly long-term


When the Red Sox were revamping their starting rotation last season by trading John Lackey to the St. Louis Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, certainly the Red Sox were not anticipating Kelly would win the Cy Young award in 2015. When Kelly predicted this to WEEI at the Baseball Winter Weekend a couple weeks ago, he was sporting a t-shirt that read “I’m Not Weird I’m A Pitcher”. You want your players confident, but it is doubtful that Kelly really thinks such a thing since he has never made more than 17 starts in a major league season and missed two months last season with a hamstring injury.

Kelly has a reputation for his quirky behavior in St. Louis. Kelly’s pranks have included: staring down Dodgers first baseman/outfielder Scott Van Slyke before Game 6 of the NLCS in 2013 in a contest over who would be the last player on the field after the National Anthem and once appearing in disguise to conduct an interview with St. Louis native rapper Nelly before a game.

When the Red Sox bought out Wade Miley‘s arbitration years in a three year $19.5 million deal this week, Kelly’s status came to mind. This year the Red Sox get to pay Kelly just over the minimum player salary in 2015, between $500 thousand and $600 thousand dependent on the service time calculation. Next year, Kelly would be eligible for his first year of arbitration much like Miley was this season. Assuming Kelly has a great year this season, the Red Sox would certainly be tempted to try to buy out his arbitration years to streamline the process and provide Kelly with a measure of financial security in case injury depletes his current and future value.

If Kelly pitches well and stays healthy, the question will come up again. The odds of Kelly actually winning the Cy Young award are long, but with his tools he could certainly be a #2 or #3 starter. They don’t hand you a 2.69 ERA over 128 innings, as Kelly posted in 2012, so the ability is there. Wade Miley’s 95 starts over three years and 183 strikeouts in 2014 have shown Miley’s ability to meet both these expectations. If Kelly has a 30 start season with a sub-4 ERA, this writer believes the Red Sox should give Kelly a Miley-type deal when these two factors are satisfied.

What do you think?