The D-backs wasted no time in turning down the options of Junior Guerra, Mike Leake and Hector Rondon, but took their time about deciding what to do in regard to starting pitcher Merrill Kelly. The decision there was a little more tricky: while Kelly pitched very well for the team this year, his season was brought to a sudden halt by health issues. That concluded in surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. While he is expected to be fully healthy by the time spring training comes around. as we discussed previously, recovery from this procedure is certainly not a given.
However, 85% of the people in our poll were in favor of giving him a shot, and this afternoon it was officially announced that Kelly’s $4.25 million option for 2021 would be exercised. If he’s healthy, that should prove to be excellent value. While it’d be optimistic to expect him to match the 2.59 ERA he produced in 2020, his career figure of 4.15 or even his FIP of 4.44 would be fine for that price. I would like to think he may be below both of those, as he continues to learn how to pitch to major-league hitters. Even in a pandemic-depressed free-agent market like we’re going to see, $4.25 million is not going to get you an above-average starting pitcher off the rack.
The big caveat there is, of course, “if he’s healthy,” and we may well not know that until he takes the mound next year. But this is a team which does seem in need of starting pitching, with the rotation otherwise consisting of Zac Gallen, Madison Bumgarner (who comes with issues of his own) and... Well, we’ll see. The team is presumably thoroughly aware of the situation with Kelly’s health, even if it’s really too early after the surgery to come to any conclusions about his fitness. Possibly another factor: the decision means the team will also control Kelly for 2022, when there is a $5.25 million option on his services, with no buyout. Below, is some video from 2019 and 2020 of Merrill in action.
In other roster news, pitchers Corbin Martin and Jeremy Beasley also came back off the injured list, and were put back on the 40-man roster. This apparently brings Arizona to 38 players there.