A Joe Kelly reunion with the Red Sox could be what both sides need
We’re officially in the offseason and both teams and players are declining options at a rapid pace. The Red Sox have had a few of their own players make their way to the market as the calendar has flipped to November. We all know that pitching will most likely be at the forefront of Chaim Bloom’s mind this winter, and with that said, a familiar face is back on the free-agent wire.
Over the weekend the Los Angeles Dodgers declined the $12M option fire righty reliever Joe Kelly, and the pieces are starting to fall into place. I’ve been keeping an eye on this story since the news broke and it feels like Red Sox Nation is split right down the middle.
Half remember how good he can be when he’s on and what he did in the 2018 postseason. And the other won’t forget how their hearts would skip a beat when he didn’t have control. Personally, I went back and forth with myself on the very idea of bringing Kelly back to Boston but with the current state of our bullpen, having another veteran may not be a bad idea.
We don’t know the futures of Garrett Richards or Martín Pérez yet or where exactly Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock will be used in 2022, so bringing Fightin’ Joe back may not be too crazy of an idea. On the other hand, we have to think about finances. I know, an odd concept for one of the richest clubs in the sport, but it’s the reason why Chaim works here now so it can’t be overlooked.
The Dodgers passed on Kelly because his results surely didn’t make him worthy of a $12M salary and I fully agree with them on that logic. In 2021, he tallied a 2.86 ERA, 3.08 FIP, and a 0.977 WHIP but only pitched 44 innings. He would miss 56 days of action due to shoulder inflammation and then an undisclosed injury, further pushing that hefty paycheck away from him.
So why would I want to bring Jimmy B back to the Red Sox, well, the list of righty free-agent relievers is a wild one and I’d rather go to a name I know and trust. That may not seem like a good enough reason to bring in a guy with the salary demands of a Joe Kelly but it makes a huge difference. I’d much rather do business with the devil I know rather than the devil that I don’t.
There’s also the chance that the Red Sox could benefit from him coming off of a season that wasn’t the most ideal and get a bit of a sweetheart deal in place. They’d need to offer him more than what he was earning during his first time in Boston but could probably avoid hitting the $12M mark that he would’ve been at in 2022.
Hell, something in the terms of two-years/$20M gets him more than what he earned in 2021 but is still under what his option would’ve been. The offer would be close enough to what the option would’ve been that he may not feel insulted by it being lower and Bloom could secure a veteran reliever that Alex Cora more than trusts for a reasonable price.
Looking at the names on the market this winter, my eyes keep going back to Joe. In relation to the current Red Sox bullpen, his 0.7 WAR would’ve put him fourth in Boston behind just Whitlock (1.6), Matt Barnes (1.0), and Richards (1.0). Again, considering some of the names we saw trot out from the bullpen in both 2020 and 2021, I’d gladly cheer for Joe to be entering a game.
The Red Sox were two games away from the World Series and the most painful part of the whole thing is that they very well could’ve swept the ALCS. Blown leads late in Games 1 and 4 were the difference makers and it was all downhill from there. Had they had someone with the big-game experience of Kelly coming from the pen things could’ve gone differently. With the World Series being a very tangible goal in 2022, firing the Joe Kelly Fight Club back up at Fenway Park may not be a bad idea.