Source: Reliever Joe Kelly close to deal with Dodgers

December 2, 2023, 2:59 PM

Hard-throwing reliever Joe Kelly is closing in on an agreement to return to the Los Angeles Dodgers, a source told ESPN on Saturday, confirming multiple reports.

The deal, which is pending the completion of a physical examination, is expected to be for one year, according to the New York Post. FanSided first reported the agreement.

Kelly, 35, is heading into what would be his third stint with a Dodgers. He originally joined them on a three-year, $25 million contract in December 2018 and was a key figure on the 2020 team that ended the COVID-19-shortened season with a championship. The Dodgers reacquired Kelly in a midseason trade with the Chicago White Sox this past summer, using him as a middle reliever down the stretch.

Kelly can throw into the triple digits and compiles a plethora of strikeouts, but he can also be erratic, making him a wild card out of the bullpen. He became a full-time reliever in 2017 and since then has posted a 3.98 ERA with 354 strikeouts in 305⅓ innings, but he also has the 10th-highest walk percentage among those who made at least 300 appearances in that stretch.

He dominated out of the Boston Red Sox bullpen during their World Series run in 2018 and was especially productive throughout a 2021 season that saw him post a 2.86 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. His ERA has ballooned to 5.07 in 85 appearances over the past two years, but he has become a cult figure in Los Angeles. His pouty face, made after a strikeout of Carlos Correa in the midst of the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal, and the mariachi jacket he wore during the Dodgers' White House visit have been depicted throughout the city.

Kelly joins a strong bullpen mix that is currently headlined by Evan Phillips, Brusdar Graterol and left-hander Caleb Ferguson. The Dodgers have also been encouraged by Blake Treinen's health in the wake of shoulder surgery.