By Jason Shetler
The Pittsburgh Pirates added to their bullpen late Monday night/early Tuesday morning, as they acquired reliever Keone Kela from the Texas Rangers for pitching prospect Taylor Hearn and a player to be named later. Reports are that the second player will be a “low tier” prospect.
Kela spent four seasons pitching in the Rangers bullpen, with this year being his first as their closer. The 25-year-old has put up a 3.44 ERA, along with a 2.97 FIP and K/9 of 10.8 in 38 appearances this season for Texas. Kela is able to display dominance with a terrific combination of an upper-90’s fastball and plus curveball.
Hearn arrived to the Pirates in late July of 2016 from the Washington Nationals as part of the Mark Melancon deal. The 23-year-old southpaw was putting up solid numbers this year for AA Altoona, posting an ERA of 3.12, a 1.08 WHIP and a 9.3 K/9 in 19 starts. Prior to the trade, MLB Pipeline rated Hearn the seventh best Pirates prospect.
Analysis: If the Pirates were going to add to the bullpen, it needed to be a quality arm with controllable years. They did that with Kela, who is under team control through 2021. Kela joins a Pirates bullpen that already has been effective in the late innings with Edgar Santana, Kyle Crick and Felipe Vazquez. From the Rangers perspective, they receive a very intriguing pitcher in Hearn. Most view Hearn as a reliever in the long run, but with the Rangers lack of young rotation depth, they’ll probably give him the opportunity to be a starter first, once he arrives to Arlington. Overall, it’s a good deal for both clubs, however, it’s one that made the Pirates bullpen even stronger.