Phillies should pursue Keone Kela to improve bullpen

Keone Kela (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Keone Kela (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /
1 of 2

Free-agent reliever Keone Kela would provide a much-needed boost to the Phillies bullpen.

Free agency is off to a quiet start. As we approach winter meetings this could change though. J.T. Realmuto is the primary concern for the Philadelphia Phillies. It’s hard to picture this team going very far without him behind the dish. It’s also difficult to see them having any success without addressing the bullpen as well.

There are plenty of bullpen options in this year’s free agency class. One of the most intriguing might be Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Keone Kela.

The right-hander only pitched in three games this past season, his contract year, due to a positive COVID test and forearm tightness. Nonetheless, he still has a strong track record, which should earn him some big offers. Over his six-year career, Kela has pitched in 231 games and 216 2/3 innings with a 3.24 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, .202 batting average against, 266 strikeouts, and just 83 walks.

The Phillies have needed a late-inning flamethrower like Kela, even since before the 2020 season. Kela is a two-pitch pitcher — with a fastball that averages around 96 miles per hour and a curveball that sits around 82 miles per hour. Last offseason, the Phillies not only needed a strong pitcher behind Aaron Nola but also a power pitcher. Zack Wheeler filled that role. Similar to Kela, Wheeler’s fastball sits around 97 miles per hour and his curveball sits around 80 miles per hour.

Kela is much more effective than other two-pitch Phillies pitchers in recent seasons, including Hector Neris; plus, Kela isn’t going to blow a ton of late leads, at least not as many as Neris.