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Shawn Kelley on dealing with Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo: Master Negotiator

Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo made aggressive offers to a number of free agent targets this winter, though not all of the deals worked out. He did, however, get an important bullpen piece with a take-it-or-leave-it-type offer to veteran reliever Shawn Kelley.

Photo © Ed Chigliak/Federal Baseball
Photo © Ed Chigliak/Federal Baseball

Veteran right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley, 31, signed a 3-year/$15M deal with the Washington Nationals earlier this month, after meeting with the Nats at the Winter Meetings and agreeing to terms. Coming off a 1.0 fWAR campaign in 2015, Kelley went into free agency for the first time after putting up a 2.45 ERA, a 2.57 FIP, 15 walks (2.63 BB/9) and 63 Ks (11.05 K/9) in 51 ⅓ innings pitched for the San Diego Padres.

He lived near Nashville, Tennessee, where the Winter Meetings were held and thought it would be a good idea to meet with interested teams personally.

"Kelley is another aggressive right-handed pitcher that attacks hitters. He's got a really good sinking fastball and a wipeout slider..." -Mike Rizzo on Nationals' reliever Shawn Kelley

"I don't live too far away from there," Kelley explained, "and I was kind of just there to meet some people, talk to some teams if they wanted to get to know me a little better on a personal level and it just kind of came together in the matter of an evening really with the Nationals, and then we had to work through some contract stuff."

Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo described Kelley as an "aggressive right-handed pitcher that attacks hitters."

"He's got a really good sinking fastball and a wipeout slider," Rizzo said, "and [is] a guy that's pitched leverage innings for different teams, proved that he could do it in big markets like New York City and was great with the Padres, so we liked what we saw when he pitched against us at times and scouts really liked his demeanor and his aggressive nature on the mound."

In and MLB Network Radio interview this morning, Kelley went into more detail about how the deal with the Nationals came about, explaining that Rizzo made a take-it-or-leave-it offer in Nashville.

"There were two or three teams that were really interested in wanting to get something done," Kelley explained, "so I felt like maybe meeting them face-to-face and shaking hands and actually talking to them might increase my odds of getting the deal that I wanted with the team that I wanted, so that was kind of my mentality."

"I met with Rizzo there kind of late," he continued.

"He made the offer, basically was like, 'Hey, I'll give you this offer right now, if you like it, but you can't go back downstairs and talk to any other teams.'" -Shawn Kelley on Mike Rizzo's offer of a three-year deal

"There were a few other teams I was talking to, I actually went up to his suite, we talked about the contract, he made the offer, basically was like, 'Hey, I'll give you this offer right now, if you like it, but you can't go back downstairs and talk to any other teams.' And I shook his hand and I said, 'Thank you, that's good for me.'"

"It's what I wanted," Kelley said of the three-year deal. "It was really important to get the third year for me, personally, to be able to feel like I have a home for years to come, and settle in. I've been on a one-year thing for many years and of course you know how that goes when you're -- not necessarily pitching for your contract -- but every year you're thinking about, 'Well, where am I going to be next year?' So, it was nice. Two years was on the table. When I started to hear three, that sounded good enough for me.

"I wasn't going to wait around and try to stretch it any further or mess around. That was something that I felt personally was fair and was a great opportunity for me and then obviously to be with Washington where I know they're going to win and compete for a World Series, the situation just couldn't have been better."