Padres make 1-year deal with Kela official

February 19th, 2021

The Padres signed free-agent reliever Keone Kela to a one-year deal, the club announced on Thursday.

Kela, 27, will give San Diego’s bullpen another pitcher with closing experience. The Friars also finalized a deal with veteran righty Mark Melancon.

To make room on the 40-man roster, the club placed right-hander Trey Wingenter (Tommy John surgery) on the 60-day injured list.

Kela appeared in just three games for the Pirates last year before his season was cut short in August due to right forearm inflammation. The right-hander also spent time on the injured list with arm-related injuries in 2016, ’17 and ’19.

Over six seasons with the Rangers and Pirates, Kela has recorded a 3.24 ERA with 266 strikeouts and 28 saves in 216 2/3 innings. He had a career-high 24 saves for Texas in 2018.

In San Diego, Kela will reunite with general manager A.J. Preller, who was part of the Rangers' front office that drafted him in 2012. He’s also set for a reunion with former Texas teammates Yu Darvish and Jurickson Profar and Pirates teammate Joe Musgrove.

Kela joins a crowded San Diego bullpen mix that runs 16 deep with players who could crack the Opening Day roster. At most, the team has only eight or nine places available.

Melancon, Drew Pomeranz and Emilio Pagán are slated to pitch the highest-leverage innings for the Padres. Kela could slot into a middle-innings role in front of them, alongside the likes of Matt Strahm, Pierce Johnson and Austin Adams, among others.

Intriguing high-upside arms like José Castillo, Adrian Morejon and Ryan Weathers now face a bit of an uphill battle for their big league spots, with so few places available. Meanwhile, Craig Stammen, Dan Altavilla and Javy Guerra — all of whom cannot be freely optioned to the Minors — could be in serious roster jeopardy.

Decisions loom over the next month and a half. But the Padres wanted to build the kind of bullpen depth that could sustain the grind of a 162-game season, and they’ve gone a long way toward doing so over the past week.