Boston Red Sox

By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com

The Red Sox have a number of important decisions to make in the coming weeks as the hot stove season approaches.

All this week, we here at 985thesportshub.com will be evaluating whether or not the Red Sox should re-sign their major impending free agents and what it might cost to keep members of the 2018 team around for the long-term.

So far, we’ve taken a look at Craig Kimbrel and Nathan Eovaldi.

Now, we turn our attention to Joe Kelly, who improved his market value dramatically with his strong postseason. Should the Red Sox pay Kelly or let him walk?

Oct 28, 2018; Los Angeles, CA: Boston Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly reacts in the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Oct 28, 2018; Los Angeles, CA: Boston Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly reacts in the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

The likely cost:

A three year contract with an average annual value of $6 to $9 million.

The argument for keeping Kelly:

Kelly finally fulfilled his potential in October, pitching well in the ALDS before becoming a reliable and even dominant option in the ALCS and the World Series. Kelly’s numbers against the Dodgers were strikingly good, pitching in all five World Series games and striking out 10 batters over six scoreless innings.

Proponents of re-signing Kelly will point to the development of his secondary pitches as a reason why he can continue his strong performance moving forward. His breaking ball and changeup have never looked better than they did in October.

The argument against keeping Kelly:

Who was that on the mound in October wearing a Joe Kelly mask and a Joe Kelly jersey?

The dominance we saw in the postseason was a 180 from how Kelly pitched in the regular season. He had a 4.39 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP and barely made the postseason roster as a result of his poor second half performance. It’s fair to expect Kelly to regress to the mean. He can’t possibly be this dominant, right?

There are a number of appealing bullpen options on the market this year, including Andrew Miller, Kelvin Herrera, Adam Ottavino, and David Robertson. The Red Sox would be better served investing in any of those pitchers instead of Kelly.

The verdict:

This one comes down to the cost. If the Red Sox are able to get Kelly at $5 to $6 million per year, it’s worth keeping him around with the hopes that he builds on his strong October and becomes a more consistent and reliable late-innings option.

If the price tag rises on Kelly, there are too many proven relievers on the market to justify re-signing him.

Kelly will likely get more money in free agency than he is worth.

Prediction:

3 years, $24 million with the Los Angeles Angels.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s own Hardcore Baseball podcast and on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.