Rangers Doing Background Work on Pirates Minor Leaguers in Keone Kela Discussions

Ken Rosenthal has four names being discussed in a possible deal between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Texas Rangers for closer Keone Kela. The interest from the Pirates in Kela was reported on Tuesday by Evan Grant and we wrote up a summary here.

There were no names involved in that rumor. Now Rosenthal is saying that among the names being talked about are Kevin Newman, Jordan Luplow, Tyler Eppler and Dovydas Neverauskas. Newman is the highest rated prospect in that group, while Luplow is also a top 20 prospect at this time, although he’s closing in on losing his prospect status. Eppler was having a very solid season up until his last three starts, while Neverauskas has pitched well in Triple-A, but that hasn’t translated to any success in the majors over several short stints. More on this rumor shortly.

UPDATE 6:58 PM: Analysis from Tim Williams…

There’s not a name here that I wouldn’t trade for Kela, obviously with the disclaimer that it depends on the total return.

The big name here is Kevin Newman, who is the heir apparent to Jordy Mercer, with Mercer being a free agent at the end of the year. Newman is seen as the guy who can take over at shortstop next year, but I don’t see him as a long-term replacement.

His average and OBP are good in Triple-A, but he lacks power, and has basically been a singles hitter. I don’t see that improving in his jump to the majors. Defensively, I think that he’s got the upside that Mercer had in his prime, with Mercer’s numbers taking a dip the last few seasons. Newman has some speed, but that has never really been something that has added value on the bases, and mostly just allows for a better BABIP and higher average.

There’s a chance that Newman could be an average starter in the majors, and that really depends on him maintaining a high average and OBP in the jump from Triple-A. I think it’s more likely that his lack of power will lead to streaky performances where he’s at the mercy of his BABIP, which would lead to a below-average starter or a good utility infielder. If I had to do a comp, it would be like Adam Frazier at the plate, with the defense to handle shortstop.

Even if the Pirates didn’t have Cole Tucker with more upside in Altoona, I think that Newman would be a guy that you’d only want as a stopgap, and who you’d want to upgrade over eventually. That’s my opinion as someone who doesn’t think his current offensive profile will lead to an average starter in the majors.

The Rangers could see him as an average starter, and the Pirates could see that value as well. But that’s also long-term, and not necessarily in 2019, if it happens. I think that if your only reason for not trading Newman is that he’s the guy to take over immediately for Jordy Mercer, then there’s no harm in trading him, since it wouldn’t be difficult to get a replacement who could match Newman’s value in 2019 until Tucker arrives or someone else steps up.

I don’t think I would trade Newman with a lot of other big players. But none of the other players here are guys that the Pirates would miss long-term.

Jordan Luplow is the best of the group, currently starting in Pittsburgh as an injury replacement. The Pirates could easily replace him with Austin Meadows, and in future years it would be more difficult to find chances for Luplow with guys like Jason Martin and Bryan Reynolds getting closer to the majors.

I think you could make an argument that you’d only trade one of Newman or Luplow, with more return being needed in the secondary if Luplow is the guy.

As for Eppler and Neverauskas, I see them both as middle relievers, with Eppler having a shot at starting in a weaker rotation, or as a depth starter out of Triple-A. I don’t think you’d miss either guy, considering all of the young relievers the Pirates have right now, along with the young starters in Triple-A, and the scene only getting more crowded with any addition of Kela.

There’s the possibility that information is missing here, whether it’s other (possibly bigger) names the Rangers would want, or if there’s a possibility of other players the Pirates are looking at in return. So I think it’s premature to say that a deal should get done here based on these names alone. I’ll just say that these names wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me.

UPDATE 7:00 PM: Rosenthal corrects his previous tweet, saying these players aren’t part of current discussions.

I’m not sure if this means those guys wouldn’t be in a deal, or if this is clarification that it’s not to the point where the two sides are discussing names. I’d just consider this moot right now, outside of the knowledge that the Rangers have scouted those players. – TW

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