Pittsburgh Pirates: A Reflection on Keone Kela and Free Agency

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 12: Keone Kela #35 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the bottom of the seventh inning at Oracle Park on September 12, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 12: Keone Kela #35 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the bottom of the seventh inning at Oracle Park on September 12, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates have the league’s most amount of arbitration eligible players.  Due to this, the team will not see a whole lot of players enter the Free Agent Market.

If there was one part of the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen that was supposed to be relied on in 2020 it was reliever Keone Kela.  After missing a significant amount of time in 2019, Kela looked dominant down the stretch.  He positioned himself to be the team’s closer in 2020, a role that he served in for the Texas Rangers before the 2018 trade.

Things never went as planned for Kela in Pittsburgh.  When the team first acquired him it took him a full week to report to the Bucs.  Then, over the course of the 2019 season, he missed games due to injuries and a clubhouse dispute that found him suspended.

This year was more of the same for the relief pitcher.  He was supposed to start the year as the team’s closer, but found his start to the year delayed multiple times due to COVID-19 testing.  Finally, when he returned he only appeared in three games and one could see that his stuff just was not right.

Kela will now walk as a free agent.  He officially became one after the World Series ended.  Overall, his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates should be viewed as another big disappointing trade.  The Bucs traded away their top left-handed pitching prospect at the time in Taylor Hearn and a big bonus international prospect in Sherten Apostel.  Hearn made his debut in 2019, although had to undergo Tommy-John Surgery.

Apostle has quickly climbed the ranks of the Rangers system and has become one of the best power hitting prospects in baseball. This is something that the Pittsburgh Pirates could use dearly in their system.  Instead, the Rangers have a legitimate top 10 prospect who plays corner infield, a a position that is very thin in the pipeline.

Next. 2020 Exit Velocity Leaders. dark

Kela’s career with Pittsburgh will likely be finished.  If he was interested in doing a “one year prove it” type deal, then the two sides would have likely already worked that agreement out.  Instead, the Bucs will have just 47 total innings of work to show from Kela, and while they were effective (2.49 ERA), he did not nearly pitch as much.  Not only did the team lose significant prospect talent for him, but because of the question marks around him, the Bucs were not able to recoup any value either.  Now he walks for nothing.

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