ATLANTA — With Tuesday’s 3 p.m. MST Trade Deadline looming, Merrill Kelly‘s performances this season have proven him to be a potentially valuable starter for teams pushing for a playoff run.
Kelly’s sixth straight quality start in Arizona’s 1-0 loss to the Braves on Sunday at Truist Park only made the right-hander more attractive to contenders.
“It’s been fun,” Kelly said about his impressive month. “It’s definitely more fun when I can execute. The more pitches I can execute, the more fun it is to pitch and the more that the hitters have to honor, I think is more of what it is. If they know that I can throw all five of the pitches in the zone for strikes at any time, that means they have to be aware of all five at any time. So I’m just trying to continue to ride that wave and build on each and every start.”
Kelly has lowered his season ERA from 3.64 to 2.87 over his past six starts. His impressive stretch has lasted the entire month of July, when he had an ERA of just 1.31 while pitching 41 1/3 innings, walking just eight batters, fanning 33 and garnering a 4-0 record.
In his most recent outing, he stalled a red-hot Braves lineup to just three hits and two walks over seven innings and matching a season-high eight strikeouts.
“If it wasn’t so hot, I probably would have run [Kelly] out there for another inning, but I know he was wearing down a little bit,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “This heat is real here in this town. It’s real. He just was executing at a really high level. It was 3-1 breaking balls to fastball hitters to get him back into counts, and then finishing off hitters with quality stuff, following a great game plan. That’s what he’s been doing, and it doesn’t surprise me. He’s been working hard.”
Kelly’s contract has two more years after the 2022 season totaling $18 million, with a $7 million a club option that includes a $1 million buyout in 2025. The relatively low price for two years of a starter on the rise continues to push the 33-year-old’s value higher.
“[I’ve thought about it] a little here and there,” Kelly said about the possibility of being traded. “I try to flush it as soon as I can as soon as those thoughts come in because, I mean, it’s the generic response, but I really can’t control anything about it. So if it happens, it happens. But I’m happy where I’m at.”
As the Trade Deadline changes the outlook of many rosters across the Majors, teams like the D-backs will have an opportunity to give younger players a chance to stand out. In the series against the Braves alone, Jake McCarthy displayed the ability to step up after the Peralta trade.
“I don’t think anyone really replaces a guy like David Peralta, but if my number is getting called, I just want to make the most of the opportunity,” McCarthy said following a road series against the defending World Series champions in which he went 5-for-10.
“Being a big leaguer is fun, but I also want to win and contribute to the win.”
In consecutive games, the rookie outfielder was the first player to get a hit for Arizona, breaking up a no-hitter in back-to-back games.
“[McCarthy’s] a very good baseball player, and we’re just scratching the surface with him,” Lovullo said. “That’s our mindset. We got to keep coaching these young players and see where they land. He’s in a good spot.”