Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors: Should Keone Kela be Traded?

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates have the opportunity to make a few trades this offseason.  Should the team consider trading reliever Keone Kela?

For as bad as the Pittsburgh Pirates ended up playing on the field last season, things were just as bad, if not worse, off the field.  There were numerous incidents between coaches and teammates that really raised questions about the state of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.  If the team wasn’t fighting with themselves, they were fighting the Cincinnati Reds on the field.

One player in the middle of a few of these incidents was Keone Kela.  Kela’s journey as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates has been strange, to say the least.  This past year started with him getting hit hard through the first month of the season.  He then went to the Injured List and missed all of May and some of June.

He bounced back nicely and showed that the injury really was limiting him in the early going.  All in all, Kela had a dominant final stat line.  He pitched to a 2.12 ERA across 32 games, striking out 33 hitters.  His ERA after the all-star break was 0.50 with 22 punchouts in just 18 innings.  That is the pitcher the Pittsburgh Pirates thought they were getting when they dealt for him at the 2018 deadline.

However, for as good as he pitched, it ended up being overlooked due to his actions off the mound.  Kela was suspended by the team for getting into an altercation with peak performance coach Hector Morales.  Then, he was suspended for his role in the Pittsburgh Pirates-Cincinnati Reds rumble which featured Amir Garrett charging the Pittsburgh Pirates dugout.

Keone Kela is entering his final year of team control.  The Pittsburgh Pirates are likely fielding calls on the reliever for this reason alone.  However, should they trade him?  Yes, he brought along a lot of issues last year in the clubhouse.  However, the Pirates are going to be in need of a closer in 2020.

This could be a reason to hold on to him.  Right now teams are viewing Kela as a good reliever who could help deepen their bullpen.  Meanwhile, these opposing teams are likely bringing up his suspensions and injury issues as negatives in talks.  So realistically how great of a package would the team get right now?

Instead, the Pittsburgh Pirates should plug Kela into the closer role.  He has experience doing it and the team needs to have someone in there to lock down the games that they should win.  If he proves that he can be just as dominant as the closer as he was as a setup guy last season, then it will really help the Pittsburgh Pirates overall.

Usually the biggest trades at the deadline every season revolve around an elite relief pitcher.  By holding on to Kela and allowing him to rebrand himself as a closer, it will only boost his value.  Every year there are playoff-contending teams desperate for relief help.  This past year was the Atlanta Braves, the Astros last year in Roberto Osuna, the Cubs getting Aroldis Chapman, the Indians getting Andrew Miller, the list goes on and on.

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Teams do not make desperate trades for relievers in the offseason, there are always enough arms on the free-agent market to deepen bullpens.  The Pittsburgh Pirates should keep Kela to allow him to build up his value as a closer and sell high at the trade deadline.  Chances are the return will be better then and that should be the overall goal, getting the best return.  Also, who knows, maybe the team will be better next year and actually need a quality closer.