Early this morning, it was announced that reliever Shawn Kelley has signed with the Washington Nationals, according to Jack Curry of the YES Network.
This is one of a few bullpen signings for the Nationals in recent days, as they also signed left-hander Oliver Perez a few days ago. The Nats are looking to improve their bullpen, which was dreadful last year and cost them mightily down the stretch, and this signing will help them in that department.
Shawn Kelley previously played for a team in the other east division, the AL East with the New York Yankees from 2013-2014. Kelley came up with the Seattle Mariners and played there from 2009-2012. The right-handed reliever pitched for the San Diego Padres in 2015 and put together one of his best years, going 2-2 with a 2.45 ERA.
After his stint with the Yankees he was traded to the San Diego Padres for minor leaguer Johnny Barbato. In his career Kelley has had some injury problems, starting in his college days in 2003 when he tore his UCL at Austin Peay State University. His next injury came in 2010 while in spring training with the Mariners where he was accidentally kicked in the face by teammate Mark Lowe. He required six stitches to fix that injury. His next injury came in May of 2013 when the Yankees put Kelley on the 15-day DL due to a strained lumbar spine in his back, which was reported by Bryan Hoch of MLB.com at the time.
The 31-year-old reliever has been average in his career but is a serviceable middle reliever when called upon. He has compiled a 19-19 record with a 3.67 ERA, while striking out 323 batters and recording a 1.23 WHIP. He also has four career saves, which he compiled in 2014 with the Yankees.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo talked at the Winter Meetings about the Nats bullpen and said, “Whatever way we can improve the ballclub - whatever way we can improve the bullpen specifically - we'll certainly do. It didn't end well for us. They pitched poorly down the stretch. But there's good, talented players in there. We don't have to move anybody if we don't want to. There's no money constrictions on us. We're going to put the best bullpen that we can out there and the best 25-man roster that we can.”
This signing might signal the end of Jonathan Papelbon’s time in the Nation's Capital, even though he is still under contract until 2017. Papelbon made news this past season in late September when he and Nationals star Bryce Harper had a blow up in the dugout and Papelbon choked Harper.