Just one year removed from having a 6.08 ERA, Joe Kelly has emerged as the White Sox most effective reliever. Other teams are starting to take notice.
Kelly has been fun to watch this season. The right-hander has a variety of deliveries that were on full display on Saturday as he mowed through the Royals. Everything from quick pitching to three legs kicks to delaying his delivery to throw-off timing.
The results speak for themselves. In his last eight appearances, Kelly has retired 23 of the 24 opposing hitters he has faced. In those 8.2 innings of work, he has also racked up 13 strikeouts and allowed just one hit.
On the season, he owns a 2.92 ERA with a 0.65 WHIP, averaging 12.41 strikeouts per nine innings. That is the second-highest total of his career outside of the 2022 season, when he averaged 12.89 K/9.
Kelly’s performance is exactly what the White Sox hoped they were getting when they signed him to a two-year deal worth $17 million. On the last year of an expiring contract, the White Sox could look to flip him at the deadline while his value is high.
Even if the White Sox still wanted to make a run for the divison, they could still afford to trade Kelly since they have a three-time All-Star in Liam Hendriks, set to return.
So what could the White Sox get for him?
Market For Joe Kelly
Contenders are always looking to add pitching at the deadline. If postseason baseball has taught us anything over the years, it’s that a good bullpen is critical.
That’s why the White Sox pushed all their chips to the center of the table to acquire Craig Kimbrel in 2021. The move ultimately didn’t pan out, but it shows just how aggressive some teams can be when they are trying to bolster their bullpen.
Not only is Kelly dominating this year, but he is also a two-time World Series Champion who has experience throwing in big games during his time with the Dodgers.
The Texas Rangers are the first team that comes to mind when thinking about a buyer that needs bullpen help. The Rangers currently hold a two-game lead over the Houston Astros in the AL West. However, their bullpen has the seventh-worst ERA (4.41) in the MLB. Their front office is known to be aggressive, and Kelly seems like a perfect fit.
The Atlanta Braves have the 10th-ranked bullpen in baseball. They sit atop the NL East and will be looking to buy at the trade deadline.
Milwaukee is another team to watch. They are in a dogfight in the NL Central, and their bullpen sits in the bottom half of the league with a 3.96 ERA. If they want to create some separation with the Pirates, Kelly would be a nice piece to add to their bullpen.
Don’t rule out a return to LA for the 34-year-old, either. The Dodgers, per usual, are leading the NL West. They traded for Craig Kimbrel last season to bolster the bullpen, but things have not panned out. Their bullpen has a 4.43 ERA, which is the sixth-highest in baseball. They also have a deep farm system with the assets available to land Kelly.
Historically the White Sox have done well when flipping relievers at the trade deadline. Here is a look at the White Sox returns when trading away a reliever. This does not include package deals, which the White Sox could do if they feel they are out of the division race to net an ever-bigger haul.
Here are a few examples of returns Rick Hahn has gotten when trading away a reliever:
- LHP Zach Duke to the St. Louis Cardinals for OF Charlie Tilson
- RHP Joakim Soria to the Milwaukee Brewers for LHP Kodi Medeiros and RHP Wilber Perez
- RHP Addison Reed to the Arizona Diamondbacks for 3B Matt Davidson
- LHP Luis Avilán to the Philadelphia Phillies for RHP Felix Paulino
- LHP Xavier Cedeño to the Milwaukee Brewers for OF Bryan Connell and RHP Johan Dominguez
- LHP Dan Jennings to the Tampa Bay Rays for 1B Casey Gillaspie
- RHP Jake Sanchez to the Oakland A’s for OF Michael Taylor
- LHP Eric Surkamp to the Los Angeles Dodgers for RHP Blake Smith
- RHP Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers for OF Ryan Cordell
- RHP Nate Jones + $750K + $1MM in international bonus pool money to the Texas Rangers for RHPs Joe Jarneski and Ray Castro
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