The Detroit Tigers have signed former Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Carson Kelly for the remainder of the 2023 season, with a club option for the 2024 season. The club has also designated catcher Eric Haase, a Dearborn native, for assignment.
Kelly, who is 29, was released by Arizona last Tuesday. He is slated for a $4.25 million salary this summer and the Diamondbacks are on the hook for most of that, with the Tigers paying just a pro-rated portion of the major league minimum salary. He was eligible for a fourth and final season of arbitration in 2024, but that will be negated by a $3.5 million club option with some incentives.
Kelly began his career with the St. Louis Cardinals, who selected him in the second round of the 2012 amateur draft out of Westview High School in Portland, Oregon. He made his debut with St. Louis in 2016 and spent parts of three seasons with the Cardinals, mostly in the minor leagues. He was traded to Arizona with Luke Weaver in the deal that sent Paul Goldschmidt to St Louis.
In five-plus seasons, Kelly posted a slash line of .223/.308/.378 for an OPS of .685, a .297 wOBA and a 83 wRC+. He cracked 44 home runs and drove in 165 runs over that span. Injuries sidelined him several times, including a four-month stay on the injured list when a 101 mph heater fractures his arm just a week before the 2023 season began.
Kelly would seem to fit the profile that team president Scott Harris is looking for. He has a career strikeout rate of 20%, a 10% BB rate, and an on-base percentage of .308 — which climbed to .316 with Arizona.
Haase was drafted by Cleveland in the seventh round of the 2011 draft out of Dearborn Divine Child high school. He was born and grew up in the Detroit area. The Tigers purchased his contract prior to the 2020 season. As a Tiger, he slashed .229/.280/.400 for an OPS of .680, a .293 wOBA and an 87 wRC+.
Haase led the Tigers for the 2021- 2022 seasons with 36 home runs and a wRC+ of 106. While that’s not saying much, he was one of few Tigers to actually perform above MLB average offensively. 2023 was a different story, however, as his performance plummeted to a .201 batting average and just 44 wRC+ (100 is MLB average) and just four home runs.
“He loves Detroit. This is his childhood team. He worked his way into our lineup and did a lot of things for us.”-
“It’s tough to deliver that type of news to someone who is so universally liked, loved and respected...He had so many cool moments for us here. Unfortunately, it hasn’t gone great for him this year and we chose to sign Carson.” — Detroit Tigers’ manager AJ Hinch
Haase was out of options and would have been eligible for arbitration for the first time after the current season, but was also a strong candidate to be non-tendered. Kelly was also a strong non-tender candidate as he stood to get a raise from his $4.25 million salary but the club option takes all the mystery out of that possibility. There is no word yet on whether there is any buyout should the team decline his option for 2024.