On a day where every team seemed to be looking for bullpen help, the Pittsburgh Pirates didn’t want to get left behind. The team shored up its bullpen by acquiring Keone Kela in a deal with the Texas Rangers, according to our own Jeff Passan. In return, the Pirates are giving Texas two minor leaguers — one is Double-A pitcher Taylor Hearn and other has yet to be named.
Pirates acquire Keone Kela in a trade
The 25-year-old Kela has put up a strong season with the Rangers. Over 36 2/3 innings, Kela has a 3.44 ERA. Kela only has a little over two years of service time in the majors, so he’s arbitration-eligible through the 2021 season. He’s making $1.2 million in 2018.
What does the Keone Kela trade do for the Pirates?
The Pirates pick up a strong back-end reliever for multiple seasons. Kela has been used as both a setup man and a closer, and has excelled in both roles.
Aside from a rough debut in 2016, Kela has put up excellent numbers over his career. He posted a 2.79 ERA in 2017 and has followed that up with a similarly strong season. While Kela’s 29 percent strikeout rate is slightly down from last year, he’s offset some of that by lowering his walk rate, which had been an issue for him in previous seasons.
The Pirates have surged ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals and find themselves just four games out of a wild-card spot in the National League. Kela should help keep the team in that position in 2018. But even if Pittsburgh can’t get it done this season, it’ll still have Kela for a couple more years.
What does the Keone Kela trade mean for the Rangers?
At 46-62, the Rangers aren’t going anywhere in 2018. The team already traded Cole Hamels. Dealing Kela is somewhat different, as he is young and could have remained with the club for a number of seasons.
The move seems to be a shift that the Rangers are embracing a full rebuild. If the team believed it could contend in the near future, Kela could have been a useful piece for them.
Instead, the team took advantage of a hot reliever market and decided it was time to move Kela.
What other players could the Rangers trade before the deadline?
Third baseman Adrián Beltré remains a candidate to be dealt. He’s in the final year of the contract, but has a full no-trade clause. It makes sense for the team to deal him, and the market should be strong for a player with his history. While the no-trade clause could present an issue, Beltré is 39 and has never won a World Series. He could jump at a chance to play in the postseason this year.
The team could also entertain moving reliever Jake Diekman, who is also in the final year of his contract.
The Kela trade opens the door for the club to consider dealing any player under contract long-term who they don’t think will be part of the next Rangers core.
If the Rangers can’t get those deals done by the trade deadline, the team could still look to move players on waivers in August.
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