Boston, MA - Going into the off-season, the Boston Red Sox made it clear that their priorities to re-sign were Nathan Eovaldi, Steve Pearce, Craig Kimbrel, and Joe Kelly. They secured deals with Eovaldi and Pearce and made a qualifying offer to Kimbrel, but unfortunately, the Los Angeles Dodgers just came away with Kelly.
Kelly signed with the Dodgers on a three year deal that will be worth twenty-five million dollars, as first reported by The Athletic. Obviously, the Dodgers will benefit from Kelly, as the middle reliever posted a 4.39 earned run average over the course of the season, most of the raising of it coming in August and September. Kelly returned to form in the post-season, though, as he "fixed the bullpen" with a slew of strong outings over the course of eleven and one-third innings that resulted in one earned run and thirteen strikeouts, including a set-up position in the clinching game of the World Series when Kelly struck out the side of Dodgers, who he has now joined.
The loss of Kelly definitely hurts. His relief appearances were a bit shaky from time to time, but Kelly always had the ability to be one of the best relievers in the game and many speculated that he could be the new closer if Kimbrel ended up walking away from Boston. With Kenley Jansen serving as the Dodgers' top closer, it seems like Kelly is content to be a strong bullpen guy.
Beyond the elite stuff that Kelly sometimes showed from the mound (any one of his new teammates could tell you that), the reliever is definitely going to be missed in Boston because of the ways he embodied what it meant to be a Red Sox through a very strong personality. His heroics in the post-season will long be remembered, but so will his performances as "Jim Buchanan," a fake reporter he portrayed as a means of trolling his teammates and as a top fighter when he reignited the rivalry against the New York Yankees by clobbering Tyler Austin after he hit the former Yankee for his targeted slide at Brock Holt.
Kelly is a dirt dog and a hilarious guy and I'm going to miss him a lot in Boston. He's one of my favorite relief pitchers of all-time.