In case you’ve been sleeping on the San Diego Padres, first of all, don’t. Second, the team acquired right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley from the New York Yankees yesterday in exchange for minor league reliever Johnny Barbato. The Padres gave up a young arm, one in which has documented elbow issues, for a solid back end of the bullpen arm in Kelley, who has, albeit brief, some closer experience. So who is Shawn Kelley?
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Kelley was drafted in the 13th round of the 2007 MLB First Year Player’s Draft out of Austin Peay by the Seattle Mariners. He spent two seasons in the Mariners’ farm system, working out of the bullpen. He made his big league debut after making the team out of spring training as a non-roster invitee in 2009. After starting out the season strong, he suffered an oblique strain that shelved him for several weeks. Kelley returned to the Mariners bullpen, finishing the season at 5-4, with an ERA of 4.40, along with 41 Ks in 41 relief appearances.
Kelley spent most of the 2010 season on the Seattle-Tacoma shuttle, going back and forth between the big leagues and the Mariners’ Triple-A squad. He had made the 25-man roster out of spring training, but injured his shin after being accidentally kicked during a drill by fellow pitcher Mark Lowe. Kelley required six stitches and returned to action shortly thereafter. Kelley’s first trip back to Triple-A occurred when ace Cliff Lee was activated from the disabled list. He returned to the big leagues when, wouldn’t you know it, Mark Lowe was placed on the DL. Kelley continued working out of the Mariners bullpen for the remainder of the season, finishing 3-1, with an ERA of 3.96 and his best K/9 ratio of his young career, posting a solid 9.4 Ks per 9 innings.
The following season saw Kelley continue to battle various injuries, recording only 10 innings of work in 2011, but he bounced back nicely to post a solid season for Seattle in 2012. Returning to the bullpen, Kelley went 2-4 with an ERA of 3.25 ERA, along with 45 Ks in 44 1/3 innings of work.
On February 13th, 2013, the Seattle Mariners dealt Kelley, to the Yankees for current Padres outfielder Abraham Almonte. In 2013, Kelley opened eyes by recording 71 Ks in 53 innings. His K/9 ratio was 12! His ERA was a little higher than the Yankees had hoped, coming in at 4.39 in 57 games. He remained a vital part of the Yankees back end of the bullpen. In 2014, Kelley returned as an important part of the Bombers bullpen, helping to provide veteran leadership to young hurlers such as Dellin Betances. While closer David Robertson was injured, Kelley earned the trust of manager Joe Girardi, and filled in as the Yankees’ closer. By the time Robertson returned, Kelley had recorded four saves to keep the Yankees in the AL East race early in the season.
By the time the 2014 season was over, Kelley once again had an extremely impressive K/9 ratio, logging an 11.7 per 9 innings. He cut his home runs allowed almost in half from 2013, from 8 to 5, in just under 2 less frames of work. So what does Shawn Kelley bring to Padres heading into 2015? He most likely replaces the departed Tim Stauffer, the longest-tenured Padre, and could easily serve in the 7th inning role for the Friars. He’s the guy that when Bud Black absolutely has to have a strikeout, Kelley is the guy you bring in. He can help set-up 8th inning man Kevin Quakenbush along with closer Joaquin Benoit, and given his brief experience as a closer last season, could fill that role in a pinch as well.
The Padres made an excellent move in trading for Kelley. Having power arms at the end of the game makes managing the final frames that much easier. Kelley is experienced, and coming to a larger park in Petco, should alleviate any concerns about the long ball, which wasn’t the case at the bandbox in the Bronx. Look for continued success from Kelley, and the Padres to keep remaking and reworking the roster throughout the winter, as the Padres inch closer to spring training in late Februrary.