Last night Keone Kela was taken out of the game five pitches in to his outing. Up five runs in the ninth, Kela was clearly not pitching in a save situation but the Pirates desperately need to get him on the mound and in the minds of scouts. He’s talented, but with only slightly over a month plus playoffs left of team control, he needs to make an impact right now.
His run with Pittsburgh has been littered by lost time and suspension, but when he’s healthy Keone is a difference maker. He also happens to be just about the most obvious trade chip on the club.
As the headline implies, moving Kela is, was, and will continue to be a no brainer. It’s also becoming less attainable. Nobody needed to see him get saves, or strike out 75% of batters he faced, all opposing GMs needed to see was he was healthy.
This is the reality of trades and timing associated with them.
Derek Shelton last night tried to downplay this latest hiccup, calling the forearm tightness something he pulled Kela over due to an abundance of caution. Essentially saying his team has suffered so many losses to injury in the bullpen he was overly worried. We’ll see, forearm tightness means many things ranging from not being stretched out all the way, to cramps, and of course the worst-case scenario, TJ. The Bucs have 8 days to get Kela back on the mound, and even that could leave suitors a bit wary.
If it doesn’t happen, he’ll remain a Pirate and fans will remember little more than the fact that Cherington didn’t get the job done. Kela will walk for nothing, and few will remember why.
It happens often actually. Many like to look back to 2019 when the Pirates had another chip they could have moved in the form of Felipe Vazquez. Think of the revisionist history practiced on that subject alone. In 2018 he was signed to a four-year extension at a reasonable rate, but the team clearly had no use for an elite closer as 2019 took shape.
The Dodgers needed a closer, in fact the perception was they were a closer away from winning it all, but Huntington wanted a king’s ransom. Rumors swirled about who he wanted and who the Dodgers offered, and then the law stepped in.
Game over, missed opportunity. Suddenly the ‘offers’ from the Dodgers became that king’s ransom and Huntington became even more stubborn, at least that’s where the rumor mill went. Reality of the situation hardly matched up, The Dodgers were never going to move Lux, and might have done May straight up. Ruiz would have brought a package of two other prospects not named Lux or May.
I recently saw some projecting Neal passed on a package of May, Ruiz and another prospect. Preposterous. And Neal wasn’t completely off base thinking he had the advantage of time, everyone was caught flat footed by who Vazquez really was.
The Pirates should be shopping any number of players on their roster as we speak, and they probably are. I’m sure there are teams interested in what Derek Holland can do for their depth. Maybe some team has the luxury of taking a flyer on Dyson as a pinch runner. John Ryan Murphy has shown himself to be a capable backup catcher. The list goes on, and those are just the easily moveable expiring contract guys. Just don’t expect to get anyone’s top prospect in return. The only member in that class was Kela and now they’ll be lucky to get much of anything.
Sam Howard is an off the wall option, he’s shown good in most of his outings, is a left-handed pitcher and has a penchant for getting strikeouts. He’s also a very hard-hit foul ball turned homerun away from some very sexy numbers. I’m not predicting this move so much as pointing out that who the club moves could catch you off guard a bit.
Sometimes a missed opportunity isn’t that at all, at times the opportunity never materializes in the first place. That may very well be the story of Keone Kela, if so it won’t be an example of Cherington’s failure, it’ll instead illustrate just how everything needs to go right to get the job done.