The D-backs have agreed to a minor league deal with veteran righty Keone Kela, reports Fansided’s Robert Murray. Kela had Tommy John surgery mid-May in 2021, so he won’t be ready for the beginning of the season but will give Arizona a potential high-end reliever to join the bullpen at some point midseason.
The 28-year-old (29 next month) has seven seasons of MLB experience under his belt, spending time with the Rangers, Pirates and Padres. From 2015 to 2019, he appeared in 228 games, throwing 214 2/3 innings, recording a 3.23 ERA, along with an excellent 30.1% strikeout rate and slightly-high 9.4% walk rate.
Unfortunately, health issues have slowed him down since then. In 2020, a positive COVID-test and forearm tightness limited him to just two innings on the season. Last year, he logged 10 2/3 frames before requiring Tommy John. As part of his contract with the Padres, the surgery meant that they were allowed to retain Kela for 2022 via a club option valued at $800K. However, they decided not to pick that up, presumably not confident that Kela could make it back to the mound in time for it to be worth their while. Tommy John surgery typically comes with a recovery time of 12 to 18 months for pitchers, meaning that Kela could be ready to go a few months into the season but also could miss the entire year.
For the Diamondbacks, they are coming off a miserable 52-110 campaign that saw them even with the Orioles for worst record in the majors. Despite that, they don’t seem interested in stripping down the roster, instead opting for making some upgrades and hoping for better results this year. In the bullpen, they’ve already added Mark Melancon and Ian Kennedy, who are likely to take the high leverage spots. If Kela can come back from his surgery and perform like he did from 2015 to 2019, he’ll give the club yet another experienced veteran to help out their relief corps. Should the team struggle to contend again, these relievers could all make for intriguing trade chips at the deadline.