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.

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.

14 Responses

  1. pog

    Will we have a spot in the open in the pen, Doug? I think I’d probably want to first try to fill any holes we had with last years young guys who didn’t pan out as starters. Or who finished the year as relievers.

    I’m not sure if getting into a bidding contest over a reliever would be all that productive.

    • Doug Gray

      I’d think that the bullpen is locked in for Iglesias, Lorenzen, Hughes, Hernandez, and Garrett. So there would be room if signed.

      • Big Ed

        Then they have a need for a lefty. Brad Brach, maybe, if he is still unsigned?

  2. Rut

    Hasn’t Kelley had two Tommy John surgeries? Certainly would not want anything more than a 1 yr deal for him…

  3. AirborneJayJay

    Pass. I’d rather see them pursue Adam Warren for the bullpen, or get a reliever in the Sonny Gray trade.

  4. Matt Hendley

    Hopefully this is just a sniff around

  5. Hanawi

    Reds seemingly have zero faith in any of their young arms (Mahle, Romano, Reed, Stephenson, etc.).

    • Matt Hendley

      And again since it is mentioned every thread. Mahle has options left and would benifit from a little more polishing. Reed should be in the bullpen….not just to start the season but forever. Romano needs to learn how to effectively throw a changeup….preferably in a place he cant damage the reds while doing it so minors. And Stephenson….nope… no faith in that guy. Mella is tradeworthy, greene is too far away…Finnegan defenatly needs to be in the minors. I have a feeling i have forgotten a few but ultimately they boil into the following categories. 1. They are a bum, and the reds have lost faith or 2. They have options…are good young talent but need to fox one or two things to compete every 5th day. If the season does go south, they will probebly make it up in august, and if it is going well they will be up in September.

      • Scott C

        I agree that it would not hurt Mahle to spend time in AAA however I think Reed could be an effective starter at leas as a #4 or #5. He has a nasty slider if he could get two other pitches at slightly above average he would be very effective.

      • Drrobo

        The “young” guys will all be between 25 and 26 years old during the 2019 season. DeSclafani will turn 29 and Finnegan 28. I believe Mahle is the youngest at 25. Time for them to show why they were considered to be promising prospects. None of them, including Mahle have proven to be reliable. Castillo is almost unhittable at times but still goes into unexplainable periods where he seems lost. I would not be surprised to see another less expensive starter added but think CF should be the priority.

      • LWBlogger2

        I disagree on Reed. He may be a bullpen pitcher, and I’d be inclined to lean that way because of how his delivery works and how well RH hitters see him. I’m not locked into that yet though as he looked fair against RH hitters at AAA last year and it looked like he was hiding the ball better when I saw him work. He did enough in my opinion to warrant a chance to get some starts.

        I think Mahle is a lot closer than you think but yes, he has an option left so they don’t have to have him on the 25-man. Romano needs to work on his off-speed offerings or he’s going to be a bullpen arm. I think he’s more likely a bullpen arm than Reed is.

  6. Ross

    Louisville native, the proximity to home might actually help the Reds for once

  7. Drrobo

    The “young” guys will all be between 25 and 26 years old during the 2019 season. DeSclafani will turn 29 and Finnegan 28. I believe Mahle is the youngest at 25. Time for them to show why they were considered to be promising prospects. None of them, including Mahle have proven to be reliable. Castillo is almost unhittable at times but still goes into unexplainable periods where he seems lost. I would not be surprised to see another less expensive starter added but think CF should be the priority.

  8. LWBlogger2

    I’m not a fan of Kelley’s at all. It doesn’t have to do with his little tantrum either. Heck, I’ve lost my temper on a baseball diamond plenty of times and have gone nose-to-nose with a few coaches. It happens. It’s more a matter of his age and the fact that he’s always been an extreme flyball pitcher and I don’t think that works at GABP. On the plus side, he should be giving up solo shots as he doesn’t walk guys but still, HRs can kill and he will give them up in bunches in Cincy. I also expect his K-rate to drop. The Reds have options internally and I’d rather them spend the money on a LHP option if they are going to sign a FA.