Return of Joe Kelly on reported 1-year deal bolsters back-end of Dodgers pen

Despite declining his $9.5 million option for 2024 at the start of the offseason, both the Dodgers and Joe Kelly maintained interest in a reunion, and today that was finalized with a one-year deal.

No word on the exact money yet, but since they declined a $9.5 million option and gave him a $1 million buyout, I’m guessing it’s less than $8 million or so, probably with some kind of option at the end of it.



It’s reportedly exactly $8 million, making it savings of just $500k or so.


After coming over as a part of the Lance Lynn trade with the White Sox, Kelly was a revelation out of the pen for the Dodgers … when he was healthy. Kelly’s stuff looked as dynamic as ever in Blue, posting a 1.74 ERA and 1.32 FIP in 11 games and a ridiculous 47.5% strikeout rate. He also struck out three in 1.2 scoreless in the brief playoff appearance for the team.

Even when one zooms out a bit, there were signs Kelly was as good as ever despite a 4.12 ERA. He carried a 2.72 FIP and 2.93 xERA in 39.1 innings, including a 35.7% strikeout rate. Of course, he had less than 40 innings because he had right elbow inflammation with the White Sox and then strained his groin with the Dodgers, which continues a trend over the last three seasons when he’s averaged just 40 innings a year.


Availability concerns aside, Kelly is a welcome return to the pen, especially on a one-year deal. He joins likely leverage relievers Evan Phillips and Brusdar Graterol to provide an important third option at the back-end to start the season, allowing their other returning injured pitchers, younger guys, and non-roster invitees to compete to fill out the pen and perhaps surpass him in the pecking order. It also alleviates pressure on the front office to pursue further pen upgrades as an absolute necessity.

The Dodgers now have one 40-man roster spot for Jason Heyward (who has still not finalized his deal) and Kelly, so there will need to be a move there before this deal gets officially done.

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