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Dodgers finalize 1-year, $8 million contract with Joe Kelly

MLB: SEP 13 Padres at Dodgers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Dodgers on Monday made official their one-year contract with Joe Kelly, who will be paid $8 million for his services in 2024.

Kelly had a 4.12 ERA and 2.93 xERA in 39⅓ innings over 42 games, with 60 strikeouts against 16 unintentional walks, including a 1.74 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 10⅓ innings after getting traded back to the Dodgers in July. His 35.7-percent strikeout rate and 25-percent strikeout-minus-walk rate were the best of his dozen-year major league career.

On November 5 the Dodgers declined Kelly’s $9.5 million club option for 2024, instead paying him a $1 million buyout. Given his $8 million salary on the new contract means the Dodgers saved $500,000 in the ordeal.

The reported agreement between Kelly and the team came back on December 2. It was finalized a few hours after clearing two spots on the 40-man roster by trading reliever Victor González and second baseman Jorbit Vivas to the Yankees in exchange for minor league shortstop Trey Sweeney.

There is still one more open spot on the 40-man roster, which is waiting for the 10-year, $700 million deal for Shohei Ohtani to become official. Ohtani wore number 17 in all six seasons with the Angels. Kelly wore number 17 over the last five seasons with the Dodgers and White Sox. In the tweet announcing Kelly’s deal, his uniform number was airbrushed out of the graphic, considering that Ohtani number 17 Dodgers jerseys are already for sale.

For what it’s worth, the Dodgers’ website lists Kelly as number 99.

There is another note that at least loosely links Kelly and Ohtani. Kelly’s deal is the 11th consecutive free agent pact signed by the Dodgers that is one-year long, dating back to March 2022.

The full list of one-year contracts:

  1. Hanser Alberto (March 18, 2022): $1.85 million
  2. Shelby Miller (December 2, 2022): $1.5 million
  3. Clayton Kershaw (December 5, 2022): $20 million
  4. Noah Syndergaard (December 16, 2022): $13 million
  5. J.D. Martinez (December 29, 2022): $10 million
  6. David Peralta (February 16, 2023): $6.5 million
  7. Jimmy Nelson (February 16, 2023): $1.2 million
  8. Alex Reyes (February 16, 2023): $1.1 million
  9. Ricky Vanasco (November 16, 2023): $900,000 (split contract)
  10. Jason Heyward (December 6, 2023): $9 million
  11. Joe Kelly (December 11, 2023): $8 million

The caveat here is that the Dodgers did sign some multi-year deals during that time, but they weren’t for free agents. Austin Barnes in July 2022 signed his two-year, $7 million deal that runs through 2024. In November the Dodgers signed Max Muncy for two years, $24 million as the deadline was approaching to make a decision on his club option for next year.

Unless the Dodgers manager to quickly squeeze in another one-year free agent deal, that streak that is expected to end once Ohtani is announced.