Dodgers: Reasons Why Joe Kelly Will Likely Not be Re-Signed in LA

The offseason started with the idea that there would be a seismic shift roster wise for the Dodgers. That was immediately proven true after long-time shortstop Corey Seager left LA for the bag in Texas. With Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, and Joe Kelly among the Dodgers still on the (frozen) open market, more change is likely not too far away for the boys in blue.

Focusing on the Joe Kelly part of it — let’s be fair, Kershaw and Jansen have been discussed ad naseam this winter — the writing may already be on the wall that the Dodgers are ready to move on from the flamethrowing reliever.

First, the club declined a $12 million option for the 2022 season, opting to pay a buyout and send him out into free agency. Since then, LA added free agent right-hander Dan Hudson to the bullpen on a one-year, $8 million deal. Hudson profiles similarly to Kelly stuff wise, with a high-velocity fastball sitting in the 96-98 mile-per-hour range paired with an above-average slider.

So, the Dodgers brought in a leverage right-handed reliever with closing experience and playoff success. All at a cheaper cost, mind you.

Related: What Role Will Dan Hudson Fill for LA?

Beyond Hudson, the bullpen will be adding 2020-2021 offseason signing Tommy Kahnle to the list of healthy relievers this coming season. Kahnle joined the Dodgers on a two-year pact soon after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The 32-year-old righty is another fastball/changeup type of guy that further fills the void left by Kelly.

Finally, after an up and down year in 2021, Brusdar Graterol figures prominently in LA’s plans in 2022. The fireballer worked hard on the command of his slider last season and became a weapon for the Dodgers late in the season and into October. Another year older and wiser, the Bazooka figures to be a cost-effective asset in the bullpen following the departure of Kelly.

Adding it All Up

Put this all together and add in the club’s need to trim payroll in creative ways and it just doesn’t equal up to a return engagement for Joseph Kelly. The 33-year-old compiled a 7-4 record with a 3.59 ERA over 115 games with the Dodgers. Good but not great numbers. In this market, that’s still sure to fetch the reliever a handsome payday elsewhere around the league. 

Dodgers Decline Joe Kelly’s Option for 2022, Will LA Re-Sign Him, Did he Live up to Contract?

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Clint Pasillas

Clint Pasillas has been writing, blogging, and podcasting about the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2008. Under Clint's leadership as the Lead Editor, Dodgers Nation has grown into one of the most read baseball sites in the world with millions of unique visitors per month. Find him online on Twitter/X or his YouTube channel!


  1. All good pts Clint. And thats without mentioning Vesia, Bikford, Cleavinger and Gonsalez. Now I hope the DodgerNation writers will quit saying we need bullpen help.

  2. You can never have too much pitching! It will come down to money. Personally, I hope they bring him back. He’s one of the few personalities left on the team

    1. Tim, you’re right good pitchers are always needed and Kelly finished the season on a good run. Factor in his swagger on and off, he deserves a new contract.

  3. Well, there is no savings in 2022 when you add the buyout and Hudson’s salary together. We could have had Kelley for one year and let him walk. As a free agent he will command a 3 year deal. Kahnle is not a sure thing yet. Must be we’re not certain about Kelly’s health. He’s certainly a leade

  4. The bigger need for 2022 is starting pitching. As of the moment only Buehler and Urias are sure sets for the rotation. There are holes to fill if Dodgers want to compete.

    1. Come on Mike, Belli did have a lousy year and it cost the Dodgers plenty, however he is coming off surgery, on the D/L a couple of times and he was the MVP just a year ago. Not ready to give up on him. When heathy and right Belli is a game changer. Just wish he would bunt more with that open third base line it would discourage that shift they put on him

    2. that’s a GREAT idea…get rid of bellinger when he’s FINALLY healthy coming into the season, ready to PROgress to his mean. i mean, if you don’t think last year was an outlier season that mostly happened because of all the injuries after the offseason shoulder surgery, i don’t know what to tell you. he’s going to have a nice year, and it sure would be nice for him to have that nice season WITH the dodgers.
      he and chris taylor were seemingly the only dodgers to hit consistently in the postseason.

      of course, i’d still really like to keep joe kelly. he had a really effective season last year, and his attitude and spirit are just fun, for fans and players alike. but…it feels like they’ve already planned for his absence, which sucks.

  5. Not happy to hear this projection. I can’t argue with the logic, but it doesn’t figure in the intangible that Joe Kelly brings with him.

    He was lights out one of the best relievers in the game towards the end of the 2021 season. He could be counted on for a 10-15 pitch inning like we had expected in the past from Kenley Jansen.

    Earlier in his time with the team he was wild and uncontrolled, but we later found out that he had been battling an injury that he hadn’t fully disclosed. So, that earlier period shouldn’t be figured into his average numbers.

    He is cured now and we saw what he has become by referring back to last year. Yes, he should command a good payday from another team. A team that understands that long term averages are not as reliable as the most period in the player’s career.

  6. I would think that there is injury cocrn or he wouldn’t have been bought out. That being said, if I were in the GM’s office I would be looking at starting pitching more heavily at this point. The lockout is going to push some players like Kelly to the side anyway. Many players will not be signed until after the season starts. Sad truth after a 2 month lockout

  7. I don’t see the logic of this speculation. The idea that you have plenty of good relievers so there’s no need to keep one is silly, as is the assumption the Dodgers need to “trim payroll.” Where’s that coming from? As for Kelly’s numbers, his last season was his best (2020 was good, too). The buyout was merely a financial move to lower the cost of a possible future contract.

    IMO keeping Kershaw, Kenley, and Kelly is something the Dodgers should strive for. I’m all in if Freddie Freeman is available, but the team already has options at first base so it’s a cherry on top but not an essential.

  8. Starting pitching, relievers are always a concern and as the old adage goes, you can never have too much. Besides I like Joe, so I’d keep him.

  9. Signing Hudson did not save money. This is 4th grade arithmetic. They paid Kelley $4 million as a buy out and they will pay Hudson $8 million. That is a total of $12 million, for Hudson, not for Kelley. They could have paid Kelley $12 million. It is the same amount, either way: pay Kelley $12 million or pay Kelley $4 million to go away and pay Hudson $8 million. So either way it is $12 million, just choose, Kelley or Hudson. The Dodgers, for whatever reason, decided on Hudson, for $12 million, not Kelley, for $12 million. I suppose there is some advantage on the competitive balance tax — with Hudson the payroll is $4 million less than paying Kelley the $12 million; that is the only saving.

  10. I understand why he might not be back. But he is a favorite, because of his stance against Correa and the Houston A-Holes!

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