Texas Rangers make major move in trading Keone Kela to the Pittsburgh Pirates for prospects

ARLINGTON, TX - JUNE 21: Keone Kela (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - JUNE 21: Keone Kela (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Closer Keone Kela has officially been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Texas Rangers will receive prospect Taylor Hearn and a player to be named later from Pittsburgh.

The Texas Rangers have officially traded 25-year-old closer, Keone Kela, to the Pittsburgh Pirates. In return, Pittsburgh will send their #7-ranked organizational prospect, Taylor Hearn, to Texas, along with a player to be named later. The deal met its completion in the closing minutes of last night’s Rangers’ victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Kela will be missed, that is for sure. He absolutely dominated in his first year as the Texas closer, earning a save in 24 out of 25 opportunities, striking out 10.8 hitters per nine innings and posting a 2.97 FIP. However, as the game goes, great performances add to player value, and high value leads to trades when a team is entering into a rebuild.

Keone Kela was the Rangers’ greatest trade asset. Not only because of his statistics, but also because of his contract. He is making just $1.2 million this season and he is arbitration eligible through 2020. The Pirates have gained a weapon of immediate impact for their sudden emergence as a playoff contender. Plus, they will have that weapon for at least the next two seasons.

Texas Rangers
ARLINGTON, TX – APRIL 22: Keone Kela #50 of the Texas Rangers pitches in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners at Globe Life Park in Arlington on April 22, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

The Texas Rangers needed to make a big splash. Cole Hamels to the Chicago Cubs was a notable trade because it involved “Cole Hamels”, but the veteran left-hander saw his trade value plummet this season and the Rangers really did not get much in return. If Texas wanted a nice return to contribute to their rebuild, they had to trade their elite closer.

Closers have dominated the trade market in past years and that did not change in 2018. Kelvin Herrera was traded in June, Brad Hand moved over a week ago, Zach Britton was traded to the Yankees a few days ago…closers are far too meaningful to contenders to be held onto by a team that is not contending. The Rangers cashed in on Kela at the right time.

Transitioning to the package headed to Texas, we know half of it. Nolan Writin’s Kenneth Nash detailed a potential Taylor Hearn to Texas trade last week. He broke down Hearn as such:

"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."

Hearn pitched at the Double-A level thus far this year, posting a 3.12 ERA in 19 starts over 104 innings.

It will be interesting to see who else the Pittsburgh Pirates send to Texas. Pittsburgh has a lot of young talent already at the major league level; however, they don’t have a ton left over in the minor leagues. ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports the PTBNL is expected to be a lower tier prospect.

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The Texas Rangers did right in moving Keone Kela. Now they have to hope their new prospect and their “prospect to be named later” pay off. We’ll see down the road. As for now, only hours remain until the trade deadline and Texas still has a few players that could go. Enjoy the closing hours of chaos around MLB!