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Pirates acquire Keone Kela from Rangers

The playoff odds may not be in the Pirates’ favor this year, but they clearly seem to have moved past their short “rebuilding” phase.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles Photo by Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates have acquired right-handed reliever Keone Kela from the Rangers for left-handed pitching prospect Taylor Hearn and a player to be named later, as Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan first reported early Tuesday morning:

Kela, 25, has posted a 3.44 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP with 44 strikeouts and 14 walks over 36.2 innings this season. He’s served as the Rangers’ closer for most of the year and has 24 saves in 25 chances. His command has consistently been questionable over his four-season major-league career — he has a career walk rate of 9.5%, and it’s been higher than nine percent for each of the last three seasons — but he’s consistently limited contact, holding hitters to a .206 career average.

His most attractive quality, obviously, is that he’s arbitration-eligible for the next two seasons, making him an ideal addition to a very impressive young Pirates bullpen that already features closer Felipe Vazquez — who is signed through 2021 with club options for the next two years after that — plus second-year right-handers Kyle Crick, Richard Rodriguez, and Edgar Santana, all of whom have been fantastic this season. That group may not push them over the top in 2018 — there’s virtually no way they’ll make up a 7.0-game deficit in the NL Central, and they trail by 3.5 games in the wild-card race — but it’ll certainly put them in great position to contend next year.

Obviously, it’s difficult to determine exactly how good of a trade this is for the Pirates until we have a better idea of what they’re giving up.

Hearn, 23, was a fifth-round pick of the Nationals in 2015 and was acquired in the July 2016 Mark Melancon trade. He’s posted a 3.12 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 19 starts at Double-A Altoona this year. He’s ranked as the No. 7 prospect in Pittsburgh’s system by MLB Pipeline.

Per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the players’ identities weren’t immediately revealed for now because the front office had difficulty contacting them in the middle of the night. For what it’s worth, Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported Tuesday morning that infielder Kevin Newman — the team’s 2015 first-round pick who is ranked as the Pirates’ No. 8 prospect by MLB Pipeline — isn’t expected to be in the deal.