The Dodgers on Sunday declined Joe Kelly’s club option, which was worth $9.5 million for 2024, per multiple reports, opting instead to pay the right-hander a $1 million buyout. Kelly is now a free agent.
The Dodgers acquired Kelly along with starting pitcher Lance Lynn from the White Sox on July 28, picking up the final $3.145 million remaining on Kelly’s 2023 salary of $9 million.
Kelly had a 1.74 ERA in 11 games with the Dodgers, and struck out 19 of his 40 batters faced in his return trip to Los Angeles. On the season, Kelly had a 4.12 ERA in 39⅓ innings, but with strong peripherals had a 2.93 xERA and 2.72 FIP, thanks to a 35.7-percent strikeout rate that ranked 10th in the majors among pitchers with at least 30 innings.
“The numbers that really matter to winning I think is what’s not shown on the board,” Kelly said on July 29, when he was activated upon returning to the Dodgers. “All they see is wins, losses, and ERA. They don’t see the numbers that ultimately really matter, that shows how good a pitcher is. Like FIP, BABIP, slug, and all those numbers.”
Opposing batters hit just .196/.292/.331 against Kelly on the season, and were only 3-for-34 (.088/.225/.088) with all singles after he joined the Dodgers.
Staying on the field proved elusive for Kelly, who missed a month in August and September with right elbow/forearm inflammation. He missed two weeks in July with the same injury while with Chicago, and was sidelined two weeks in April with a right groin strain.
But while on the mound, Kelly averaged 99 mph with his fastball, the best of his career. Kelly, who lives in Corona, said on the Baseball Isn’t Boring podcast on October 19 that he has considered retirement, and that if continues to pitch he wants to do so locally.
“I’ve been at this point in my career where I’ve done as much as I want to accomplish in the game. I want to keep playing as much as my family allows me to,” Kelly said on the podcast. “I kind of wanted to go out on my own and be the only guy in the history of the game to retire that could still throw 101. I thought that would’ve been kind of interesting.”
Kelly, who turns 36 in June, has a 3.95 ERA in parts of 12 major league seasons, with 732 strikeouts in 807 innings.