Kelly removed from Tigers roster, elects free agency
He went unclaimed in the waiver process, and his contract was outrighted to Triple-A Toledo, but the 32-year-old elected free agency and can sign with any other Major League Baseball club.
“In Donnie Kelly’s case, I may get in trouble here because we’re not supposed to talk about it but we’re going to take him off our roster. I’ve talked to Donnie about that so he’s aware of the situation,” Dombrowski said at Tuesday’s season wrap-up news conference. “There’s some procedural aspects of it that we have to follow. Clubs can claim him and keep him in the big leagues when that happens. If not, if he goes through, we would have interest in signing him to a minor league contract and bringing him to camp to compete for a job."
Kelly is one of the most popular members of the team, but it’s been an up-and-down year for him. Stuck in a season-long slump (he finished the season hitting .186 with just four extra-base hits and seven RBI), Kelly was designated for assignment in early August, but returned to the team in September.
He just kept his fingers crossed the whole time, knowing that there were no guarantees.
“Yeah,” Kelly admitted. “Yeah. ... Yeah, I didn’t know. There was nothing guaranteed. But in this game, you learn a long time ago, you just keep grinding it out. You don’t take it personally. I was hitting .170-something, so you don’t really — I know I bring a lot to the team, as far as versatility, but we needed a spark. So you don’t take it personally, you just keep trying to do your job, and go down there and keep playing.”
It worked out in the end. Kelly was on the playoff roster, and again contributed in a huge spot in the postseason.
Last year, it was a home run in Yankee Stadium in the pivotal Game 5 of the American League Division Series. This year, Kelly recorded a walk-off sacrifice fly in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Athletics.
“He knows how well thought of he is here. But I also know that other people are in a position where somebody may offer him a better opportunity,” Dombrowski said. “That’s what guys look for when they’re free agents.”