According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, the Pittsburgh Pirates have shown what he describes as “legitimate interest” in Texas Rangers closer Keone Kela. Grant cites three MLB sources saying that the Pirates have shown interest in Kela.
Kela is only 24 years old, and under team control through the 2020 season, making $1.2 M this year. If the Pirates added him, he would not only be an upgrade to the bullpen for this season, but would also help over the next two years.
This season, Kela has a 3.18 ERA and a 3.44 xFIP in 34 innings, with a 10.85 K/9 and a 3.18 BB/9 ratio as the Rangers’ closer. He’s a hard thrower who averages 97 MPH with his fastball and tops out at 99, along with a curveball that has a 19.2% whiff rate and a .427 OPS against.
The Pirates have seen good results from their bullpen lately, with Kyle Crick and Edgar Santana stepping up as good late inning options. Richard Rodriguez has been a big pickup for the team this year, and Michael Feliz and Tyler Glasnow have shown flashes of promise in relief.
Felipe Vazquez is the closer, and that would remain after any additions to the team, since Vazquez has been looking once again like one of the best relievers in the game. Adding a guy like Kela to the eighth inning would be a good move for the Pirates, giving them a solid late inning combo for the rest of the season and the next two years.
The Pirates had that type of combination with Mark Melancon and Tony Watson, and that was a big factor in their dominant run from 2013-15. If they can add a guy like Kela to the late innings with Vazquez, and still get strong results from guys like Crick, Rodriguez, and Santana, then they could be looking at a lights out bullpen that could seriously shorten some games and make you feel safe with most leads.