The Mariners bullpen was horrible last year, with a combined 4.76 ERA. That was good for 22nd out of the 30 teams. It adds up as well, as the only teams below the Mariners who finished with winning records were the Mets (Diaz helped skew it) and this year’s National League Champs.
As was the case with countless Mariners games this year, how many games started close and by mid-fifth became the opponents’ batting practice?
Unless you’re beyond loyal or bored, how many times did you look forward to seeing the game and shortly after turning your TV off to do something else? Well, folks, the bullpen is to blame for that. The 2019 team got shelled in ways we hadn’t seen in a while.
Despite past Mariners teams not being known for their relief either, at least they were decent enough to keep their hitting in the game. Effective starters are important to become a contender yet bullpens even more so.
Which comes to the point of this article. After being inspired by site expert Colby’s article, 3 Former Mariners For Which a Reunion Could Make Sense, it’s time to bring back Shawn Kelley for some veteran relief help. Or in other words, let’s bring back Shawn Kelley 2.0. Of the several 2020 relievers who are former Mariners, let’s reunite with him.
I say 2.0 because not only would this be Kelley’s second stint, but he is a different reliever from the one who was traded for Abraham Almonte after the 2012 season. Kelley’s first Mariner rodeo was four years long, but three seasons (he missed all of 2011).
His ERA gradually improved from 4.50 in ’09 to 3.25 in ’12. However, he struggled more often than not and was similar to Juan Nicasio last year. Whenever he came in, you know the opponent had a great chance at scoring.
Why should we invest in Shawn Kelley to improve the bullpen? Because the Mariners were his first team and he’s a more mature pitcher now. It didn’t take long for Kelley to find his “stuff”, try just one year. In an intense extra-inning 2013 battle between the Yankees and Red Sox, Kelley looked unrecognizable in long-relief.
He ate innings and was barely touched by the eventual champion Sox hitters. Kelley is one of those pitchers who may have just needed a change of scenery. In this case, a franchise that has a winning culture and low tolerance for anything other.
Even though his total ERA for the two years in the Bronx was over 4.00, Kelley showed promise. His ERA as a Ranger last season was rough but from the ’15 to ’18 seasons, he only once finished with a single-season ERA over 3.00! Would anyone else have thought that the old Mariners Kelley was even capable of an ERA in the 2.00’s?
Kelley would benefit the Mariners in that they desperately need a seasoned long reliever who wasn’t just brought out of Triple A. This bullpen needs one reliever who isn’t a no-name. Maybe that’s why the 2019 bullpen was a calamity.
MLB’s Mariner writer, Greg Johns, referred to Dipoto’s 2020 plan as “let the kids play.” Yes Jerry, let the kids play. But in Shawn Kelley’s case, let them play with some adult supervision.
Don’t worry, folks. Kelley still has gas in the tank at 35 years young. After several years as a National, the A’s acquired him as part of their impressive Wild Card run. And the man came through with a 2.16 ERA in his 19 contests.
And another reason not to worry is that Dipoto doesn’t need to break the bank for him. His 2019 WAR of -0.2 doesn’t give him the highest stock. Assuming the Rangers buy his option out for a quarter of a million, let’s sign him to what his Nationals option would have been worth, 1-year, $2.5 million.