According to MLBTradeRumors, Kela may once again be on the trade block, as long as he is healthy (about which there are some questions). We looked at Kela as a Buy low candidate last year, given his suspension for the “violation of Uniform Player’s Contract” - and the Pirates have been very tight lipped as to the circumstances.
This was not the first time that Kela’s personality has caused him trouble, with the Rangers demoting him due to issues previously. It was noted that he did not put effort into the final spring training game of the year, and when veterans showed their dismay, he “blew up” at them.
Honestly, I think with the stigma attached to the Astros and Click / Crane looking to get away from the Luhnow era, this deal doesn’t seem to make sense to pursue from my perspective, but given how many injuries and him being one of the few rumored assets on the line with a week left, I figured we would revisit him.
Who is Keone Kela?
Keone, 27, is a 6’1 215 lb right handed reliever, who grew up in Carson, California. Originally drafted by the Mariners in the 29th round of the 2011 draft, Kela held out and attended Everett Community college as a center fielder. In 2012, the Rangers selected him in the 12th round - 396th overall. Here was John Sickel’s take on him in his 2015 Prospect Book:
“The Rangers drafted Kela in the 12th round in 2012, from Everett Community College in Washington. He threw in the low-90s when drafted but has since boosted that, working at 96-99 now and hitting 100 on occasion. He’s got a pretty good curveball too and his excellent K/IP ratio testifies to the quality of his stuff; he isn’t tricking people, they just can’t hit him. Kela needs to get the walks down but any team would be pleased to find a 100 MPH fastball in the 12th round. He could get a bullpen trial soon. Grade C+.”
Kela broke into the MLB in 2015 and made a name for himself with a 2.39 ERA across 60.1 IP at 23 years old. While he hasn’t quite held to those standards, he has had sported a 3.24 ERA (3.30 xFIP) across 216 IP in his career.
Kela has consistently brought a strong K/9 to the table (11.05 for his career), with a less noteworthy BB/9 (3.45).
From an arsenal perspective, Kela basically relies on 2 pitches (although he has thrown 1-2.5% change-ups over the past 5 years). Kela wields a high 90’s fastball (averaging between 95.8 - 96.3 mph throughout his career) with a devastating curveball.
Kela has a high upside with elite closer level performance on his resume.
What would it take?
This area is always as much art as science, and Kela’s case is particularly difficult as the injuries and personality challenges are much harder to quantify. Given the injury concerns, and the craziness of this shortened season, it’s hard to think it would take much of value to bring him over.
Keone Kela, 98mph Fastball (foul) and 84mph Curveball (swinging/K), Overlay. pic.twitter.com/cuhmetcERK— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 6, 2018
Kela’s upside is certainly intriguing, and the value for cost should certainly be palatable given all of his other baggage. But even still, I can’t foresee the Astros leadership tying themselves to another potential PR nightmare given everything they’ve been through.
I have seen quite a few embrace being the evil empire, but it is rarely that simple for a leadership group to take that approach. In the Luhnow era, this seems like exactly his type of move, winning at all costs. Now? I can still see the value of it, but personally don’t think the Astros would put themselves in front of additional scrutiny.