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Pirates Decide To Buy, Add Keone Kela From Rangers

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Keone Kela (Photo by Getty Images)

The Pirates, left for dead only three weeks ago, are going for it.

Pittsburgh acquired closer Keone Kela from the Rangers late Monday night, sending back lefthanded pitching prospect Taylor Hearn and a player to be named later.

The Pirates have won 15 of 19 to pull within 3.5 games of the second NL Wild Card spot. Now they can pair Kela, whose 24 saves ranked fifth in the American League, with All-Star closer Felipe Vazquez at the end of games.

AUG. 17 UPDATE—The Rangers acquired minor league third baseman Sherten Apostel as the player to be named later to complete the trade.

PIRATES ACQUIRE:

Keone Kela, RHP
Age: 25

Kela ascended from being the Rangers setup man to taking over the closer's role this season and didn’t miss a beat. He’s posted a 3.44 ERA, struck out 44 in 36.2 innings and, most importantly, has converted 24 saves in 25 chances. He’s historically had some control problems, but he’s lowered his walk rate each of the last two seasons while keeping up a double-digit strikeout rate. Kela helps the Pirates both in the short-term and the long-term. He’ll be arbitration-eligible after this season and won’t be a free agent until after the 2020 season.

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RANGERS ACQUIRE:

Taylor Hearn, LHP
Age: 23

Hearn ranked as the Pirates' No. 9 prospect entering the season and just missed the Top 10 in the organization's midseason update. Hearn is a 6-foot-5 lefty with serious velocity, drawing comparisons to the aforementioned Felipe Vazquez. Hearn’s fastball has sat 94-95 mph, touching 96-97, in starts this season, and in short stints in the past he's reached triple-digits. His fastball further plays up with extension out of his long frame, making it a true swing-and-miss pitch. Hearn has improved his control and his changeup is solid, but the development of his below-average slider will determine whether he remains a starter or moves to the bullpen. He posted a 3.12 ERA in 19 starts at Double-A Altoona this season while holding opponents to a .198 batting average, so he will continue to be given every chance to continue starting.

Sherten Apostel, 3B
Age: 19

Scouts watching Apostel in Curacao as an amateur largely preferred him as a pitcher due to his 6-foot-4 frame, athleticism and fastball up to 92 mph. Apostel preferred to hit, though, and the Pirates signed him for $200,000  in 2015 as a third baseman. Apostel is a big, physical player who has learned to control the zone and is growing into his power as a professional. He made his U.S. debut this year with Rookie-level Bristol and hit .259/.406/.460 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs as the Pirates cleanup hitter. Apostel has big raw power and makes hard contact, but his actions in the box and in the field are still fairly crude. His defense at third base in particular is very raw and needs a lot of work, and some evaluators suspect he will have to move off the position. Apostel intrigues with his on-base skills, power potential and athleticism, but needs time to smooth out the kinks in his game. Even if Apostel doesn't work out as a position player, he has pitching to fall back on. He will begin his Rangers career at short-season Spokane.

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