Shawn Kelley

Ex-A's reliever Shawn Kelley has no hard feelings toward former team

kelleyap.jpg
AP

Ex-A's reliever Shawn Kelley has no hard feelings toward former team

OAKLAND -- After Shawn Kelley's stellar stretch run with the A's last season, it seemed likely he would return to Oakland as a free agent.

The 34-year-old right-hander appeared in 19 games last August and September, registering a 2.16 ERA and 0.78 WHIP, with 18 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings. But while there was initially mutual interest in a reunion, the A's decided to go in a different direction and Kelley signed a one-year, $2.75 million contract with the Texas Rangers.

"We talked from the very end of (the season) about getting something done," Kelley told NBC Sports California. "I think when they got (Joakim) Soria and gave him that money (two years, $15 million), my agent called right away because we were kind of worried. We had been talking to (A's general manager David) Forst. Both sides were like, 'Yeah, let's get something done.' When Soria signed, we kind of saw the writing on the wall. And then (Forst) wished me luck in whatever decision I made. He said, 'We spent a little on a couple of guys and so we wish you the best and thanks for everything you did coming over, but we're out of money.'"

Kelley says he carries no hard feelings toward his former squad, as he understands the business side of baseball. He still has a great relationship with his old teammates and manager.

"I talked to all the guys when they came to Texas and I talked to them (Tuesday)," Kelley said. "I went over and gave BoMel a big hug and told him, 'Man, I'm sorry. I wanted to be here. It just didn't work out.' That's part of it. It wasn't for a lack of effort. There was obviously genuine interest from me and definitely some genuine interest from their side. Things just go different ways sometimes in free agency."

Kelley has carried last year's success into this season with the Rangers. He is already 3-0 with a save and a 1.80 ERA, as well as a 0.80 WHIP. He has notched nine strikeouts in 10 innings without issuing a single walk.

"It's been great," Kelley said. "It's a good group. It kind of reminds me of what we had over there last year (with the A's), as far as a good mix of young guys with some veterans, a lot of energy, and a lot of will to not give in and keep fighting. It's been a good experience."

Kelley is extremely thankful for the opportunity the A's gave him last season, especially after the Nationals let him go following his now infamous -- and probably overblown -- glove-slamming incident. He believes his time in Oakland rejuvenated his career.

[RELATED: Versatile Pinder forcing way into everyday starting role]

"I had fun when I went over there and saw a renewed energy and passion for just going out and having fun and enjoying it, and it not feeling like work every day," Kelley said. "It was a great experience. I loved it."

For now, Kelley is happy to be a Texas Ranger, although he doesn't rule out a return to Oakland down the road.

"Hey, you never know," he smiled. "One day, I may be back."

MLB Rumors: Ex-A's reliever Shawn Kelley agrees to deal with Rangers

kelleyusatsi.jpg
USATSI

MLB Rumors: Ex-A's reliever Shawn Kelley agrees to deal with Rangers

Shawn Kelley won't be back with the A's next season, but he reportedly will be staying in the American League West.

The 34-year-old reliever has agreed to a contract with the Texas Rangers, according to multiple reports.

MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reports the deal is worth $2.5 million, with a $2.5 million club option for 2020. Feinsand notes Kelley could earn close to $3 million based on performance bonuses.

NBC Sports California reported last week that Kelley was unlikely to return to Oakland, despite his stellar performance last season. The right-hander went 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA and 0.78 WHIP in 19 games with the A's. In 54 games between Washington and Oakland, he was 2-0 with a 2.94 ERA and 0.90 WHIP.

The A's did have conversations with Kelley's representatives earlier this offseason, but not since signing veteran right-hander Joakim Soria to a two-year, $15 million deal last month. While Oakland had hoped to bring Kelley back, they identified starting pitching as a higher priority.

The A's still figure to have a strong bullpen, which will feature All-Star closer Blake Treinen, Lou Trivino, J.B. Wendelken, Fernando Rodney, Ryan Buchter, and Soria, among others. However, it's a bit surprising they were willing to bring back Rodney for $5.25 million, but not Kelley at about half that price.

Oakland remains interested in adding another left-handed reliever to join Buchter in the 'pen, though nothing appears imminent.

MLB free agency: Examining A's best remaining options at relief pitcher

relieversusatsiap.jpg
USATSI/AP

MLB free agency: Examining A's best remaining options at relief pitcher

The A's bullpen is shaping up to be a major strength once again next season. Oakland will bring back All-Star closer Blake Treinen, Fernando Rodney and Lou Trivino, among several other relievers, and they signed two-time All-Star Joakim Soria to a two-year deal last week.

Still, the A's have hinted they might still add another arm in the 'pen, particularly a left-hander. Here's our market reset on the top relievers still available in free agency:

First tier: Zach Britton, Craig Kimbrel, Adam Ottavino, David Robertson

The big dominoes have yet to fall on the reliever market, but all four of these pitchers will be out of the A's price range. Kimbrel and Britton are likely looking at upwards of $15 million a year, and Robertson and Ottavino won't be far behind.

Second tier: Cody Allen, Brad Brach, Kelvin Herrera, Shawn Kelley, Tony Sipp, Adam Warren, Justin Wilson

Oakland has expressed interest in bringing Kelley back, and the feeling appears to be mutual. The 34-year-old right-hander was terrific last season after coming over from the Washington Nationals, posting a 2.16 ERA and 0.78 WHIP in 16 2/3 innings. However, Fancred's Jon Heyman projects Kelley to get $5 million, which may be a little more than the A's are willing to spend.

Allen, Brach, Herrera, and Wilson all figure to be out of Oakland's price range, but Warren and Sipp could be interesting options. Sipp would make sense as a second left-hander in the A's bullpen, joining Ryan Buchter.

The 35-year-old is coming off the best season of his career. In 54 appearances with the Houston Astros, he went 3-1 with a 1.86 ERA and 1.03 WHIP and notched 42 strikeouts in 38 2/3 innings. He was lights-out against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .191 batting average and .557 OPS. Heyman projects Sipp to earn $5 million next season.

[RELATED: Examining the A's best starting pitching options left in free agency]

Third tier: Luis Avilan, Tony Barnette Jerry Blevins, Brad Boxberger, Tyler Clippard, Jorge De La Rosa, Jake Diekman, Zach Duke, Greg Holland, Bud Norris, Blake Parker, Sergio Romo, Hunter Strickland

This group presents a number of viable options for a reasonable price. The A's will likely focus on the southpaws, which narrows it down to Avilan, Blevins, De La Rosa, Diekman, and Duke.

De La Rosa, 37, had the best season of the five in 2018, finishing with a 3.38 ERA in 56 innings. He was especially effective late in the year with the Cubs, posting a 1.29 ERA in 17 games. For the season, left-handers hit .235 against him.

Duke, 35, was the best against lefties, allowing a .220 batting average and .602 OPS. Heyman projects him to earn $2 million next season, while De La Rosa will likely get between $2 million and $3 million.

Of course, the A's don't have to add anyone, as they already have a deep bullpen. That should allow them to negotiate from a position of strength.

Either way, expect Oakland to rely heavily on its 'pen once again in 2019.