Merrill Kelly, Diamondbacks Agree to Two-Year Extension
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Apr 1 — Merrill Kelly will be a Diamondback until at least 2024.
Mere days after extending their best position player, Ketel Marte, the Arizona Diamondbacks extended one of their highest-performing starting pitchers from recent years. Kelly received a two-year extension for 2023 and 2024, with a team option for 2025. According to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, Kelly will get $8 million in both 2023 and 2024, and the option year is for $7 million with a $1 million buyout. Along with his $1 million signing bonus, the total value is $18 million in guaranteed salary.
The Diamondbacks have extended the contract of right-hander Merrill Kelly by two years. He will be paid $8M in 2023 and 2024. There is a $7M team option for 2025 with a $1M buyout. The deal includes a $1M signing bonus. Total guarantee: $18M.
— Nick Piecoro (@nickpiecoro) April 1, 2022
Reactions to the Merrill Kelly Extension
Merrill Kelly, who hails from Scottsdale, smiled as he said he was “extremely happy, obviously, being home.” With he and his wife having had daughter Hadley, their first child, in February, it’s a relief that they don’t have to move to another city. “I know my wife is probably even more happy than I am right now, the fact that she doesn’t have to worry about moving (Hadley) and finding a place to live. But yeah, it’s been a journey. And I’m glad that it’s culminated to where we are right now.”
Manager Torey Lovullo said, “Fantastic news for this organization. (Merrill is) somebody who has definitely proven himself over the past several years. He is very deserving of the opportunity to stay on for another couple of years…. Anytime you can solidify yourself inside of a clubhouse the way he is a very, very good feeling.”
General manager Mike Hazen said, “Merrill has been, probably, our most consistent starter over the last few years. A lot of credit (goes) to the scouts that recommended signing him a few years ago. He’s been every bit of what we were hoping, and we’re hoping that’s going to continue into the future.”
What Merrill Kelly Brings to the Diamondbacks
Of all Diamondbacks starting pitchers from 2019 to the present, Merrill Kelly has the most innings — 372 2/3. He has the most decisions amongst all Diamondbacks, 50. This is nearly twice as high as the next players on the list, Luke Weaver and the departed Alex Young (26). His 23 wins over that span are 10 more than runner-up Robbie Ray, who left at the deadline in 2020. His ERA is third-lowest among starters at 4.27, which translates to an ERA-minus of 97 (lower the better; 100 is the league average).
He also brings a positive presence to the clubhouse. “The stability he provides, the pitch mix, his ability to attack different types of hitters — he’s shown that consistently. We feel like he’s gotten better as he’s gone on. He keeps itself in great shape. (Merrill is) a leader by example in the clubhouse,” Hazen said. Lovullo added, “There’s just a certain confidence that he has, a little bit of swag walking around, knowing that he has come out the other end. (He has) paid his dues and learned from some of the mistakes that were made.
“(Merrill) continues to grow and learn day by day, and I think everybody appreciates the work ethic. Everybody appreciates the effort every fifth day and the four days in between. And he’s always been a great teammate. I’ve only known him as somebody who’s going to step out of his box to talk and teach. One thing that I certainly have learned about Merrill and appreciated since Day One is his ability to say what’s on his mind. He does it well, (taking) the old mindset of you can say whatever you want as long as you say it the right way. Because of that, he and I have had a developing relationship, and we take deep dives. I’m sure he’s doing the same thing with a lot of his teammates.”
Of all foreign-league players scouted by Hazen or someone working for him, few have developed as well as Merrill Kelly. “He’s definitely up there,” Hazen said, “as far as somebody making that transition back from when he left the States to when he came back. (He had) clearly put a lot of time and work into honing his craft, and we’ve been the beneficiaries of that.”
Other than his time with the Tampa Bay Rays and his four years in Korea, Merrill Kelly has spent his entire baseball career in Arizona — Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona State University in Tempe, and now the Diamondbacks. He wanted to stay home, so when the extension worked out, he couldn’t have been happier.
Kelly will likely be the second starter in the rotation. If his March 23 performance against the San Francisco Giants (three innings, nine up nine down, eight strikeouts) is any indication, Diamondback fans are in for a treat in 2022.
And after Friday’s news, they’ll enjoy it for two or three more years afterward.