Kela agreed to a one-year, $3.175 million deal with the Pirates, avoiding arbitration, Robert Murray of The Athletic reports. While the Pirates gave up significant prospects to acquire Kela from the Rangers at the deadline, he would need Felipe Vazquez to either get hurt or traded to start getting saves on a regular basis. This is Kela's second year of arbitration, and he will go through the process again next offseason before hitting the open market in 2021.
Kela will be shut down for the season for workload reasons, Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports. The Pirates don't want to push Kela after he threw far more high-leverage innings than he did in his previous two seasons. Much of that work came in the first part of the season with the Rangers, when he recorded 24 saves. He'll finish the year with a 3.29 ERA and a 31.1 percent strikeout rate in 52 innings.
At a minimum, Kela is expected to have a reduced workload during the remainder of the season and could be shut down, The Athletic Pittsburgh reports. Kela has reported some arm fatigue but says he's healthy and could pitch if called upon. "They just want to give me time off," Kela said. "Just so everybody knows, my arm is not hurt. The velocity is there. My quality of pitches is there." Kela is likely to serve as Felipe Vazquez's primary setup man in 2019. He could also receive occasional save opportunities when Vazquez isn't available. In the meantime, both Kyle Crick and Edgar Santana figure to pitch in the eighth inning in front of Vazquez.
Kela allowed two hits and no walks while striking out one batter in a scoreless seventh inning Friday. With Pittsburgh nursing a one-run lead after six innings, manager Clint Hurdle first went to Kela and then used Kyle Crick in the eighth and Felipe Vazquez in the ninth. It wouldn't be surprising to see Hurdle use Vazquez in a high-leverage spot before the ninth, however, opening up the door for an occasional Kela save.
Kela is expected to serve primarily as a setup man with an opportunity for the occasional save, general manager Neal Huntington told AT&T SportsNet on Tuesday. Huntington said that he has yet to talk to manager Clint Hurdle about which relievers will slot into the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, respectively, but Kela will likely only close when closer Felipe Vazquez is unavailable. "He gives Clint a backup closer, if Felipe needs a day, it gives him the ability to mix and match," the general manager noted. Huntington added that Hurdle should have "100 percent confidence in Kela out there to be able to close out a win for us." As a result, Kela's fantasy value figures to take a hit for those looking for continued save opportunities on a regular basis.