5 free agents the Detroit Tigers need to sign following the lockout

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Detroit Tigers, Joe Kelly
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The Detroit Tigers need to sign Joe Kelly to help bolster the bullpen.

The two-time World Series reliever is just what the doctor ordered for a bullpen that desperately needs an impactful arm.

Kelly, the often animated hard-throwing right-hander with closer-like stuff, would quickly play a significant role at the backend of Detroit’s bullpen.  As it stands, the Tigers will once again deploy the electrifying arm of Gregory Soto as their primary closer, although manager A.J. Hinch refuses to label anyone as such.  Soto led the Detroit Tigers in 2021 with 18 saves while posting a 3.39 ERA over 63.2 innings of work.

Hinch very much plays the matchups late in games.  Soto may come in to face the heart of a lineup in the eighth inning instead of being held out for the ninth.  If it’s the ninth inning and a string of right-handed hitters are expected, Hinch may elect to leave Soto in the pen and turn things over to someone like Michael Fulmer, who earned 14 saves last season, or Kelly in this case.

Joe Kelly performed exceptionally well down the stretch last season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, posting a staggering 0.75 ERA over 12 innings of work between September and October, holding batters to a .100 average.

While making 48 appearances in 2021, Kelly pitched to a 2.86 ERA striking out 10.23 batters per nine innings while walking 3.07/nine.

Over the past two seasons, Kelly has basically become a two-pitch pitcher using his curveball 43.1% of the time and his four-seam fastball 40.7% of the time, mixing in a changeup, keeping hitters honest just 16.2%.

Earlier this offseason, Kelly expressed his desire to return to the Dodgers, but the Tigers need to at least kick the tires on the veteran right-hander.  One thing that needs to be mentioned;  Kelly took exception with the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal, and it’s noteworthy, as you all know, A.J. Hinch had been the manager in Houston at the time, and that may deter Kelly from even considering the Tigers in free agency.