MLB Trade Rumors: Keone Kela, Jose Leclerc and Jake Diekman are among the Texas Rangers relief pitchers thought to be available with the trade deadline just three days away, per reports.
The Boston Red Sox are said to be among the teams interest in Kela, currently the Rangers closer, according to a report out of Boston, which highlights Kela’s dominance against righthanded hitters as a selling point for a Red Sox team that will be looking to hold off a righty-heavy New York Yankees lineup. The Red Sox don’t have a real strong farm system at this point, but are in win-now mode, and acquiring Kela, under team control through 2020, would also help as a hedge against the possible departure of Craig Kimbrel, who is a free agent after the season.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have also been linked to Kela, and Ken Rosenthal tweeted earlier this week about the Rangers doing background work on a variety of Pirates prospects, none of whom are all that underwhelming. However, Rosenthal also mentions Jose Leclerc as someone who is thought to be available, and adding Leclerc to Kela would give an acquiring team a pair of really good, controllable relievers, and would allow the Rangers to command a much more significant return.
There would be a fair amount of angst among Rangers fans if Leclerc were to be dealt — he’s still young, under team control through 2022, and appears to be coming into his own as a dominant reliever. Those are the reasons, however, that the Rangers would be willing to part with Leclerc. Ken Giles, at a similar point in his career, brought the Phillies a package of five players headlined by Vince Velasquez, and if the Rangers could get something similar for Leclerc, one would think they would be likely to move on such a deal.
When you have Brad Hand and Adam Cimber bringing back Francisco Mejia from the Cleveland Indians — a player who some have as a top 5 prospect, some have as a top 25 prospect, but who either way is considered a legitimate blue chip prospect and one of the best prospects in the game — it sets a marker for what one might be able to look for in a Kela/Leclerc package. If you could get something close to what the Hand/Cimber package fetched, you probably have to pull the trigger — particularly given the inherent unpredictability of reliever performance, and the Rangers’ ability to find or develop useful relief pitchers of late.
Leclerc seems unlikely to be dealt, but its not out of the question. With Kela, I’d be surprised, but not shocked, if he’s here on August 1 — with teams aggressively pursuing relievers at the deadline, Kela’s ability to hit the market after 2020, and his injury history, I suspect the Rangers will see this as the right time to look to move him. Jake Diekman, the third Ranger reliever listed by Rosenthal in the tweet linked above, will almost certainly be gone — I would be shocked if he’s not moved.
Diekman is not going to command a tremendous return — he’s a very good but not great lefty reliever who is a free agent after the season. But with the Rangers out of it, there’s no reason to hang on to him, and a contender is going to give up something of value for a lefty with playoff race experience who throws hard and has a track record of success.