Could the Twins be interested in signing Shawn Kelley?
The rumor mill has been churning slowly for the Twins lately but one tidbit of information has surfaced this evening. Both LaVelle Neal and Mike Berardino reported the Twins interest in Shawn Kelley:
Now, of course, the Twins likely have every free agent “on their radar” or are “taking a look” to some degree but relief help is high on the Twins offseason shopping list. Shawn Kelley could be a good fit with the Twins. Kelley is 31 and a veteran of 7 MLB seasons. He spent the 2015 season with the Padres and posted some great numbers. He had a 2.45 ERA, 2.57 FIP, 1.091 WHIP and 0.8 bWAR (1.0 fWAR) in 51.1 IP. Most importantly for the Twins, he stuck out batters at a 11 K/9 rate. The Twins had the lowest K/9 of any bullpen in the Majors. Kelley doesn’t throw too hard at about 92 MPH. He gets Ks with his breaking balls.
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For his career, Kelley has posted a 3.67 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 1.234 WHIP and 1.6 bWAR (2.7 fWAR). Over the past three years he’s taken his game to another level. The ERA does not reflect this shift well but his 3.08 FIP and 11.6 K/9 attest to it. Kelley had been due for a big season and in 2015, he had one. This fact, unfortunately, will make him somewhat pricey—especially in the current free agent reliever climate. As MLBTR pointed out, Kelley should be due a payout somewhere between what Mark Lowe and Ryan Madson received. There’s no better time than now to make bank if you’re a MLB reliever.
The Padres park is cavernous and so the Twins should expect his HR/9 and subsequently, his ERA to increase. They should also look for his career low walk rate in 2015 to regress somewhat. Aside from those issues, Kelley should be able to be essentially the same pitcher he was in 2015. His BABIP in 2015 was on par with his career average. That suggests his success was not due to luck. Steamer projects Kelley to have a 3.20 ERA in 2016 and Baseball-Reference, 3.70. Steamer’s regression seems more likely. Both systems estimate a K/9 around 10.
There’s no doubt Kelley would be valuable and an upgrade to the Twins bullpen but the Twins have expressed a desire for lefties over righty relievers. The most pertinent issue is whether he’s worth the 6 million/year (at least) price tag to a mid-market club.