The pen stumbled again last night and the need for another reliever looms as large as ever. Who’s next on the target list for the Red Sox?
Rob Bradford of WEEI is reporting that the Boston Red Sox are showing interest in Texas Rangers closer Keone Kela. The day after an unexpected Craig Kimbrel meltdown led to an extra innings walk off victory, it’s not surprising to learn that the Red Sox are still looking to upgrade a vulnerable pen. Alex Cora has lost faith in Joe Kelly, and both Heath Hembree and Matt Barnes, despite their success, walk too many batters. Brian Johnson will move to the pen to clear room for Nathan Eovaldi, and the soft tossing lefty hasn’t been good there. Ryan Brassier has been a pleasant surprise but is unproven. And Hector Velazquez can’t seem to buy a high leverage inning.
It’s an ugly truth, but it’s a difficult one to ignore. They need to add a late inning arm if they want to keep pace with the rest of the American League playoff contenders. The Cleveland Indians added Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. The Houston Astros just added Ryan Pressly to their crop of relievers. And the New York Yankees already had a super-pen when they traded for Zach Britton. The addition of Nathan Eovaldi means the Red Sox can convert a starter to a late inning bullpen arm a la David Price in 2017. But they are still a bit thin if they have to cover the 6th inning in a short start. Never mind the 4 or 5 inning start that seems to happen every October.
So what would the Red Sox be getting in Kela?
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Keone Kela is a 6’1 right handed hurler with a three pitch mix. He throws a hard heater, averaging a bit better than 97 MPH this season, and mixes in a changeup and a curveball. He strikes out 29.5% of batters he faces while walking just 8.2%. While the walk rate isn’t elite, his 3.58 K/BB is a solid 52nd in the majors. And he gets results. This season his ERA is 3.28 with a FIP of 2.85 and an xFIP 3.42. And he is absolute death on right handed hitters. His wOBA against versus right handers is .184. That’s with .320 being league average. Said differently, that’s a .125/.216/.192 triple slash allowed. If you aren’t digging in from the left hand batter’s box, good luck.
If Kela is traded for, his relative struggles against left handed batters wouldn’t be a huge issue as he wouldn’t be relied upon to close. The Red Sox could deploy him as a specialist against right handed hitters. Imagine having someone that dominant against righties come in to face one in a critical spot with runners on base. Or picture him toeing the rubber against the heart of the Yankees order and all it’s right handed sluggers. The downside here would be cost as he has two arbitration seasons left, but a trade for Kela would be quite savvy.
Do you think Keone Kela is the guy the Dombrowski should break the bank for? If not, who would you like to see the Red Sox target before the deadline? Let us know in the comments!