Bucs acquire righty Keller from Angels

Reliever Santana designated for assignment

April 5th, 2021

The Pirates acquired right-hander Kyle Keller from the Angels in exchange for cash considerations on Monday, and they optioned him to their alternate training site. To create space on the 40-man roster, Pittsburgh designated righty Edgar Santana for assignment.

When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster. Within seven days of the transaction, the player can either be traded or placed on irrevocable outright waivers. If Santana goes unclaimed, he could remain with the organization.

The 27-year-old Keller was the Marlins’ 18th-round Draft pick in 2015. He made his debut with the team in ‘19, pitching 10 2/3 innings over 10 appearances with a 3.38 ERA. Keller’s sample size grew smaller after being traded in ‘20 to the Angels. He allowed two runs and three hits in 2 1/3 innings, and then he was designated for assignment on Wednesday.

Keller’s pitch selection mainly relies on his fastball and curveball. In 2019, 191 of his 193 pitches were either fastballs or curveballs, according to Statcast. The numbers stayed fairly consistent in '20, when the two made up 92.6 percent of his pitches.

“I've seen a little bit of video on him,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “I know we like the fastball-curveball combo [and] his strikeout rates in the Minor Leagues, and I think it gives us more depth this year and then moving forward.”

It seems Keller has also worked a forkball into his arsenal. Though he threw it just three times in his short stint with the Angels in 2020, Keller kept the average exit velocity to 75.9 mph on batted balls, and Pittsburgh hopes its new addition will provide some relief in the bullpen.

Santana was a solid presence in relief upon making his big league debut on June 10, 2017. He appeared in 84 1/3 innings over the next two seasons, striking out 74 batters and posting a 3.31 ERA.

However, Santana had Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss all of 2019, and he had his ‘20 season wiped out when he was suspended 80 games after testing positive for PEDs. He would have had to miss the first 20 games of ‘21 due to the suspension, but it appears Pittsburgh decided to move on instead.

“When we make a claim or trade, [sometimes] guys who are on the roster have to come off,” Shelton said. “Today, it was just a decision. I think with the fact that [Santana] hadn't pitched in the last two years and we were able to get Keller, he just became the casualty of it.”