Anytime you can sign the best player on the planet to a 1 year, $1 million deal, you have to do it. And while some argue that Trout is a superior player, Don Kelly is right there with him. Certainly, by this point you recognize that the preceding sentence was written tongue-in-cheek, but my feelings remain the same. Don Kelly is awesome.
The Tigers re-upped with Kelly for another year at $1 million, which is about $500,000 above the league minimum, or essentially nothing. The Tigers signed Kelly to the opportunity cost of a roster spot. He’s going to be the 25th man on the roster for the 5th straight season.
This is a smart baseball deal because Kelly serves a very useful purpose. Generally, speaking he’s a replacement level player, but he’s a replacement level player at five positions. Kelly can play all four corners well and centerfield sufficiently enough to allow the rest of the Tigers roster to come together less rigidly. He’s not someone you want to offer 500 PA, but he’s the perfect bridge player. If a player is hurt for a day or two, Kelly is the perfect substitute. He’s also being paid like a replacement player, so it’s not like the Tigers are paying a premium for this kind of available skill. Kelly is a good defender who can take a walk and brings a lot of versatility to the club.
And beyond that, he’s a super nice dude and it’s satisfying to root for someone like that. Kelly enjoys the game and knows his place in it. Regular readers know I have an affinity for utility players and champion them at every turn. After a strong first half (110 wRC+) last year, I jumped at the chance to tell everyone how great Kelly was. It’s cool when Miguel Cabrera succeeds, but in my opinion, it’s much, much, much more fun when Don Kelly succeeds.
Talent and performance are most important with respect to winning, but in terms of fan enjoyment, every team needs a Don Kelly or two. Good guys with good attitude are good for moral. There isn’t a whole lot to analyze about this deal other than to say it’s a cheap way to fill a useful position and it comes with the added benefit of involving and athlete you can feel good about and having him around doesn’t stop the Tigers from making other upgrades. Don Kelly isn’t a great major league player, but Don Kelly is a player I enjoy having on the team.