Another team has shown interest in Texas Rangers closer, Keone Kela, with the Pirates considering a move for the young right hander.
Just a day after the Arizona Diamondbacks were linked with Rangers closer, Keone Kela, the Pittsburgh Pirates are now showing interest. The Pirates interest in acquiring a late inning reliever was tweeted out by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic this morning. The connection to Keone Kela was attributed by Rosenthal to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
Kela as we know is a hot commodity on this year’s trade market as arguably the top closer available. Keone has converted 23 of 24 opportunities with his first blown save coming last night as he attempted a five-out save. His ERA in save situations is still an impressive 1.17 and his 23 saves is good for 9th in baseball and the highest among closers currently on teams with losing records. Pair that with the fact Kela is under team control through 2020 and his value should be higher than Brad Hand or Zach Britton.
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The Pirates are currently 6 games back in the NL Central and are just 3 back of the NL Wild Card. Their push for bullpen help is one that could put them over the top in their playoff pursuit. As of now, the Pirates have lefty Felipe Vasquez as their closer. Vasquez also has 23 saves in 2018 but has 4 blown saves to this point. His 3.28 ERA in save situations is also markedly higher than Kela’s. It’s unknown whether the Pirates would replace the 27 year old with Kela or use Keone as another top late bullpen role. For long term circumstances, Vasquez is under contract through 2021, a year longer than Kela.
What Could Texas Get Back from Pittsburgh
With regards to prospect pitching depth, the Pirates have two really good prospects but there’s a gap between 2nd and 3rd. The Rangers no doubt will want pitching prospects in return for someone with the value of Kela. If Zach Britton brought two top 15 prospects and another pitcher in for the Orioles, I would imagine Kela could draw a top 5 with the right team. I think the Pirates would be hesitant to let a top tier pitcher go but the Rangers no doubt will try to spark a bidding war for the services of their elite closer.
SS Kevin Newman
I think Texas will have hard time prying away pitching prospects Mitch Keller or Shane Baz from the Pirates. But they can still headline their deal with a major league level talent in Newman. The Pirates have a logjam of shortstops in their farm system meaning they may be more willing to part with their 6th overall prospect. Defensively he has the making of a big league shortstop and shows good contact from the right side. I’m really high on Newman. At 24, he’ll be ready for the bigs next year which is perfect timing to replace Elvis Andrus.
LHP Taylor Hearn
Although the Rangers won’t be able to snag one of the top two pitchers in the Pirates system, they might come away with the third. Hearn, 23, is a lefty with a 70 grade fastball meaning it sits in the high 90’s consistently. He needs to continue to develop his slider and changeup as well as show more control, but the fastball is enough to have people excited. It’s unknown whether he can remain a starter but he’s progressing quickly and Texas may be able to snag him as the upper levels of the Pirates minors system are a bit crowded.
If Texas can pull off these two prospects, I doubt they can add much more to the deal but they won’t need to. These are Major League quality players that can help the club for a long time.