Pirates pitchers Keone Kela, Derek Holland become free agents

PITTSBURGH — Pitchers Keone Kela and Derek Holland are officially no longer Pirates. Their contracts expired Wednesday, making them free agents.

They can resign with the Pirates at any time or sign with another club starting Nov. 1. Neither will receive a qualifying offer, which is valued at $18.9 million this year, meaning the Pirates will not receive compensation for losing either player.

With a chance of a reunion seeming very unlikely, this likely closes the book on Kela’s career with the Pirates. The right-hander was acquired during the 2018 trade deadline to solidify the back end of the bullpen, with prospects Taylor Hearn and Sherten Apostel going to the Rangers in exchange.

When healthy, Kela was one of the game’s better late inning arms, pitching to a 2.49 ERA in his time with the Pirates. However, he was injured for a significant portion of his three seasons with the team. He was shut down for most of September in 2018, with the team citing his high workload that year, and was placed on the 60-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation in 2019.

This season, he missed all of summer camp and the first part of the season after testing for COVID-19, though he said he was asymptomatic. He returned to the mound in mid-August, but was limited to just two innings over three outings before a forearm injury eventually ended his season. That injury prevented him from being traded during the Aug. 31 deadline.

Holland signed as a minor-league free agent last offseason. The Pirates were open that he had a chance to not only earn a roster spot, but a chance in the rotation, during spring training and summer camp, and after a season-ending injury to Chris Archer in June, a spot did open up for him.

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