Since trading Keone Kela, Jose Leclerc has stepped in and dominated as the Texas Rangers closer. The decision to keep Leclerc at the trade deadline sure seems to be paying off.
We pretty much gauged it right the entire time. Regarding the Texas Rangers bullpen as it was constructed just over two weeks ago, Keone Kela seemed like the valuable piece to trade and Jose Leclerc seemed like the valuable piece to retain. Go figure, the Rangers ended up trading Kela and keeping Leclerc at the trade deadline.
Two weeks since the deadline and both decisions are proving worthy. Believe it or not, Leclerc nor Kela have given up a run in their post-deadline appearances. Of course, Kela is now dominating with another team, but the Rangers like their chances with the return package they received from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Make note, this article is not about the present day Keone Kela. Best of luck to him, but he no longer factors into the present day Texas Rangers. Rather, this article is about the emergence of the 24-year-old sensation, Jose Leclerc.
Texas traded Kela for two reasons: 1) his value was as high as it’s ever been and 2) they knew Leclerc could step in and effectively take Kela’s place as the closer.
Leclerc has only made four appearances since the Kela trade. Though, in those appearances, he is near perfect. No runs and no hits allowed. The only smudge is a walk that he afforded last series against the New York Yankees. He’s faced 13 batters over four innings and struck out six of them. It seems the Rangers may be onto something…
The opportune time to trade Kela was this trade season. Dominant closers such as himself are in high demand among contenders. Yes, they could have waited until next year to readdress a trade possibility; though, what if Kela got hurt or experienced a drop-off in productivity?
The obvious question regarding a possible trade was “Why deal a 25-year-old that could be the team’s lights out closer for the coming years?”. The Texas Rangers responded by implicitly stating “We’ll do you one better”.
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How about a 24-year-old lights out closer for the coming years? Not a bad alternative, wouldn’t you agree?
Though his time spent as the Rangers’ closer has been microscopic to date, Jose Leclerc definitely looks the part. He has a mid-90s fastball, something every MLB closer has. But his difference maker is that changeup/slider thing that he throws. The pitch is classified as a changeup; however, it sweeps to the right like a right-handed slider. Whatever it is, it consistently makes opposing hitters look foolish.
In his development from last season to this season, Leclerc has mastered that pitch. He can now throw it for a strike in any count, making an at-bat against him that much more uncomfortable.
Leclerc’s future is bright, as is Kela’s. No matter what happens from this point forward, the Texas Rangers did right by trading Kela and keeping Leclerc. When you take a risk in trading one of the top closers in baseball, it sure is nice to have another pitcher step in that is capable of being one of the top closers in baseball. Jose Leclerc is shining bright in Texas right now. Don’t expect that shine to dull anytime soon.