The Cincinnati Reds aren’t done trying to get the pitching, even with a likely acquisition of starter Sonny Gray. Jon Heyman is reporting that the Reds are interested in free agent reliever Shawn Kelley. They, however, aren’t the only team.
Reds are among about 10 teams that have shown interest in Shawn Kelley, one of the best relievers remaining on market
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 20, 2019
In the 2018 season he split the year between Washington and Oakland, making 54 appearances. The right-handed pitcher posted a 2.94 ERA between the two stops. With the Nationals it was 3.34, while with the Athletics it was 2.16. In three of the last four years he’s posted an ERA under 3.00. But in 2017, as he battled injuries and threw just 26.0 innings, his ERA was 7.27. He allowed 12 home runs that season despite the limited action.
The soon-to-be 35-year-old reliever can miss bats. His strikeout rate over the last four seasons is 29.4% – which would rank tops on the Cincinnati Reds. Shawn Kelley also walks no one. In that same time frame he’s walked just 6.5% of the hitters he’s faced. If you drop the intentional walks, that number drops to an absurd 5.2%. When it comes to throwing strikes, he’s very good.
But, there are two concerns when it comes to Shawn Kelley and Cincinnati. He’s given up home runs at a pretty high rate over the last few years despite pitching in some large ballparks. And he’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher. In 2017 his ground ball rate was just 26.2%. In 2018 it was just 30.2%. That hasn’t hampered him from being very effective outside of the 2017 season.
In both 2017 and 2018 Shawn Kelley made $5.5M. Those were the final years of his 3-year, $15M deal he signed with the Nationals after the 2015 season. Back in November, Jon Heyman predicted the contract for 131 free agents and has Kelley at a 1-year $5M deal. There’s a lot of competition out there for Kelley, and no word on how much he’s looking for in terms of years or dollars. While things are getting closer to spring training and prices usually come down because of that, with so many teams reportedly showing interest, that may not be the case here.