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Tampa Bay Rays should consider Shawn Kelley

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 03: Shawn Kelley #31 of the Oakland Athletics throws a pitch against the New York Yankees during the fifth inning in the American League Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium on October 03, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 03: Shawn Kelley #31 of the Oakland Athletics throws a pitch against the New York Yankees during the fifth inning in the American League Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium on October 03, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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Regardless of a 40-man roster filled to the brim with young pitchers, many of whom could play a significant role in the 2019 bullpen, the Tampa Bay Rays still may add a proven pitcher to the pitching plans.

I recently wrote an article in which I discussed longtime Yankees reliever David Robertson as a perfect fit in Tampa Bay. The next day he would sign a 2/23M contract with the Phillies. I don’t know if the Rays ever even reached out to Robertson, but at that price the Phillies got a great pitcher at an even better price. With the aforementioned depth in the pen, the Tampa Bay Rays may not want to spend that much money on relievers, so instead I am turning my attention to Shawn Kelley.

Like Robertson, Kelley is approaching his mid 30’s and has appeared in his fair share of games throughout his 10 year career. He has a career earned run average of 3.67 across 417.1 innings pitched.

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After an abysmal 2017 campaign, Kelley rebounded nicely with the Washington Nationals, that is until he threw tantrum on the mound after giving up a homer in a game where the Nats were up 25-4… He was DFA’d the following day. Five days later the Athletics traded for the righty, who would go on to surrender only 4 earned runs over 16.2 innings.

He was good for Washington prior to his release and he was even better for Oakland. All in all, he finished with an 2.94 ERA and 50 strikeouts to 11 walks over 49 innings. His .185 opponents average is impressive and he struck out 9.18 batters per 9.

I mentioned he struggled in 2017, and he did indeed, posting an ERA north of seven. But in 2018 he threw nearly twice as many innings as he did in 2017 and he made the necessary adjustments. His strikeout percentage rose almost 5% and his walk percentage dropped nearly 4%.

Of his 49 innings pitched this past season, 33 of them came against right handers who posted a minuscule .195 OBP. These numbers are better than Chaz Roe’s versus right handers, who had a .253 OBP.

He was worth .5 fWAR in 2018 which in terms of monetary value is worth 3.6 million according to Fangraphs. At that price the Rays can afford to add Kelley to the pen. Like I said when I discussed the state of the Rays pen entering 2019, your bullpen can never be too good nor too deep.

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In 3 of the last 4 seasons, Kelley posted a sub-three earned run average. The exception being his rough 2017. If the Rays bank on him doing more of the same he could be a nice under the radar signing.

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I don’t know if Kelley is even on the Tampa Bay Rays radar this offseason, but if signed he could be a pivotal piece to a Rays team looking to compete in October. He fits the bill as an under the radar signing who the Rays can plug into the pen and know what they are going to get. Keep your eye out for Shawn Kelley’s name in the coming weeks as we approach spring training.

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