Time, though not as much of it, continues to be on the Texas Rangers’ side as the nonwaiver trading period begins to draw to a close. They also have a pitcher who has emerged as one of the best remaining trade pieces on the market.
As the hours ticked away Saturday toward the trade deadline — dipping below 72 hours — the Rangers appeared likely to trade away closer Keone Kela as contenders lined up for the right-hander.
Five teams have had scouts at Rangers games for upwards of a week to watch Kela, and all five are either leading their divisions, leading for a wild-card spot or within five games of a playoff berth.
The division-leading Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians from the American League, the National League wild-card-leading Arizona Diamondbacks, and the NL wild-card-contending Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants have been actively scouting Kela.
A source said that the Rangers’ focus since trading away Cole Hamels on Friday has been centered on Kela, who “fits every team,” the source said. Kela is young (25), affordable, under contractual control through 2020 and has terrific stuff.
He was successful in his first 23 save opportunities of the season before blowing his first Tuesday as he issued a homer to start the ninth inning in an eventual 13-10 loss to the Oakland A’s.
Kela is holding right-handed batters to a .128 average, though lefty hitters have a .315 average. He also hasn’t hurt himself much, walking 12 in 35 2/3 innings while striking out 43.
Kela isn’t the only player who is drawing interest.
One baseball source downplayed the Atlanta Braves’ interest in Beltre, who has given them the impression that he wants to remain with the Rangers. Another source said that the Rangers are unlikely to trade Gallo this season but could revisit the idea during the off-season.
Beltre, who has full no-trade rights, said that he has not been given a trade to consider by general manager Jon Daniels and will be torn if presented with the chance to go to a contender. While he wants to win a World Series, he also wants to finish his career with the Rangers.
“We’ll wait and see,” he said.
The Rangers have already swung three trades this month, though they didn’t send any players in the first trade. They acquired outfielder Austin Jackson, reliever Cory Gearrin and right-handed prospect Jason Bahr from the San Francisco Giants for cash considerations or a player to be named.
The Rangers, in essence, purchased Gearrin and Bahr by agreeing to take Jackson and the $4.3 million that was owed to him. They released the Denton native a week later, and he signed Friday with the New York Mets.
The Rangers have swung two deals with the Chicago Cubs, the first of which produced left-handed pitching prospect Tyler Thomas for reliever Jesse Chavez. The big deal was completed Friday, when the Rangers traded Hamels for righty Eddie Butler, pitching prospect Rollie Lacy and a player to be named.
The expected deal for Kela will bring a bigger return in large part because he is not a half-season rental who can become a free agent after the season. He and his dynamic fastball-curveball combination can’t hit the open market until 2020.
Contending teams will pay handsomely for a controllable power arm in an era when bullpens have more emphasis in the postseason.
And the contenders have lined up for Kela.