The Dodgers won’t be exercising their $9.5MM club option on Joe Kelly’s services for the 2024 season, according to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford (X link). Kelly will instead collect a $1MM buyout and enter the free agent market.
Previously a Dodger from 2019-21, Kelly made his return to Los Angeles after the White Sox dealt the reliever and Lance Lynn to the Dodgers as part of a five-player swap at the trade deadline. Forearm inflammation sidelined Kelly for over a month, but his limited (10 1/3 innings over 11 games) work with the Dodgers was a success, as he posted a 1.74 ERA. Kelly struck out a whopping 47.5% of batters faced in those 10 1/3 frames, which helped cover up a high 15% walk rate.
For the 2023 season as a whole, Kelly posted a 4.12 ERA over 39 1/3 innings for Chicago and Los Angeles, with strong strikeout (35.7%) and grounder (58%) rates, even if his 10.7% walk rate was nothing special. Kelly’s work with the Dodgers helped get his overall numbers back in line with the improved peripherals he posted with the White Sox, but on the down side, the veteran reliever had another injury-shortened year. Kelly made three different trips to the IL, with his late-season forearm problem coming after earlier IL stints for a groin strain and elbow inflammation.
This injury history might be why L.A. chose to pass on Kelly’s option, even though the 35-year-old has shown that he can still be an effective reliever. Declining the option doesn’t necessarily mean that the Dodgers won’t still look to retain Kelly at a lower salary, though now Los Angeles will be bidding against other teams looking for bullpen help. Kelly’s last trip to free agency earned him a two-year, $17MM deal from the White Sox, and there’s a decent chance the right-hander can still land another multi-year contract, even if two injury-marred years won’t help his case.
Previous reports have indicated that the Dodgers also declined club options on Lynn and Alex Reyes, and it doesn’t seem like Daniel Hudson or Blake Treinen will have their club options exercised given their injury woes. Max Muncy was the only other Dodger with a club option for 2024, but L.A. made a longer commitment by signing the infielder to an extension.