Pittsburgh Pirates: A Failed Trade Overshadowed Finally Ends

CINCINNATI, OHIO - AUGUST 13: Keone Kela #35 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws a pitch in the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on August 13, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - AUGUST 13: Keone Kela #35 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws a pitch in the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on August 13, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /
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At the 2018 trade deadline, the Pittsburgh Pirates made a set of trades that didn’t pan out. Both acquired players are now no longer with the organization.

The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Chris Archer at the 2018 trade deadline, and that trade has been a complete failure for the organization.  Archer has since signed back with the Rays after having his 2021 option declined.  The Pirates gave away Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, and Shane Baz and acquired a pitcher who posted a 4.92 ERA in 33 starts as a Pittsburgh Pirate.

That was not the only move that was a failure at the 2018 deadline.  While Neal Huntington was acquiring players under control for multiple seasons (Archer had potential to be a Pirate for three and half seasons), he also acquired a relief pitcher with two and a half seasons of control.  In the early hours on July 31, 2018, the Pirates swung a deal with the Texas Rangers for Keone Kela.

At the time, Kela had posted a career 3.45 ERA and struck out 11 batters per nine innings.  He had the potential to be a backend reliever for the team on a cheap deal, being arbitration eligible and earning below market rate.  At the time of the trade, Kela had 24 saves, a 3.44 ERA, 2.97 FIP, and 10.8 K/9.

The Pirates were buying into a power relief pitcher and traded away Taylor Hearn and Sherten Apostel.  Kela, in Pittsburgh, saw himself shut down to end 2018, an injury and fight with a coach in 2019, and COVID along with another injury in 2020.  Kela pitched just 54 games for the Pirates and posted a 2.49 ERA, but the off field stuff and injury problems make this trade an overlooked failure.

The prospects traded away in Hearn and Apostel have risen up the Rangers rankings.  Hearn has made his MLB debut in 2018 and posted a 3.63 ERA with 11.9 K/9 in 2020.  He looks like a potential left-handed relief option that is under club control for five more seasons.  Apostel ranks as the 13th best prospect in the Rangers system by Baseball America and ninth by FanGraphs.  He projects as a hit and power first corner fielder.

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Kela has now signed with the San Diego Padres, where he will join Mark Melancon who was traded for Hearn.  While the Archer trade is seen as a failure, the Kela trade is often overlooked trade that did not workout well for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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