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Merrill Kelly signs 2-year, $18 million deal with Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 29: Merrill Kelly #29 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the bottom of the first inning at Oracle Park on September 29, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Merrill Kelly took a strange route to get to the big leagues but his journey - which includes a four-year stint in South Korea - has paid off with a new contact.

The right-hander has agreed to a two-year, $18 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks that covers the 2023 and 2024 seasons with a club option for 2025.

“I joke about it with my wife and my teammates - I was in South Korea five years ago and now I’m standing here talking to you guys about a really solid extension,” Kelly said. “It’s been a whirlwind, a journey.”

The 33-year-old Kelly will be paid $8 million per season in 2023 and 2024. He also gets a $1 million signing bonus and there’s a $1 million buyout if the team doesn’t exercise his option for 2025.

Kelly is from Scottsdale and played in college at Arizona State. He was arguably the team’s best pitcher in 2021, going 7-11 with a 4.44 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 27 starts. He has a 23-27 record with a 4.27 ERA in three seasons with the D-backs.

Kelly was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays but got stuck in Triple A before electing to sign with the SK Wyverns of the Korean Baseball Organization from 2015 to 2018, going 48-32 with a 3.86 ERA,

The Diamondbacks liked what they saw and signed him to a $14.5 million, four-year deal in 2018. Now he could be with the team for close to a decade.

“Merrill has been probably our most consistent starting pitcher the past few years,” Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen said. “A lot of credit to the scouts who recommended signing him a few years ago. He’s been every bit of what we were hoping and we hope it will continue in the future.”

The Diamondbacks are trying to bounce back from a brutal season in 2021 when they went 52-110 and finished in last place in the NL West. They’ve locked up a few or their top internal pieces over the past few days, also signing second baseman Ketel Marte to a $76 million, five-year deal that starts in 2023 and ends in 2027.