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Marlins trade Kyle Keller to Angels for catching prospect José Estrada

The first Marlins transaction of 2020 continues the reshaping of the bullpen while adding to their catching depth.

Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

After more than two weeks in DFA limbo, right-hander Kyle Keller has been traded to the Angels for catcher José Estrada, the Marlins announced Monday afternoon. It’s the team first official transaction of 2020!

The Marlins drafted Keller in the 18th round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of Southeastern Louisiana University, and all he’s done since then is pile up strikeouts. Working almost exclusively in relief, he has a career 31.8% strikeout rate in the minor leagues. He made his MLB debut on Aug. 4, pitching 10 23 total innings (10 appearances) from then through the end of the season.

The concerns about Keller moving forward are his tendencies to allow fly balls when he isn’t missing bats and inconsistency locating pitches precisely. During his limited sample with the Fish in August and September, he scored a 92 Command+ (h/t Eno Sarris, The Athletic) where 100 Command+ represents the league average.

Entering his age-27 season, Keller is under club control through at least 2025.

A league source told Fish Stripes last week that they expected Keller to be traded or claimed off waivers, suggesting that multiple clubs valued him more highly than the Marlins did. Sure enough, the Angels DFA’d one of their own arms—right-hander Jake Jewell—to make room on the 40-man roster and parted with the 19-year-old Estrada to finalize the move.

Signed out of Venezuela in Jan. 2019, Estrada made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League. He slashed .247/.335/.305 (87 wRC+) in 176 plate appearances. He caught nearly 30% of would-be base-stealers and even played three games at second base.

New Marlins catching coach Eddy Rodriguez worked for the Angels organization last season, so he has some familiarity with Estrada. Rodriguez describes him as a fast learner, on and off the field.

It must be noted, though, that Estrada was relatively old by DSL standards in 2019. Players like him heading into their age-20 campaign with zero regular season games played in the U.S. very rarely make it to The Show. You won’t see him ranked on any top prospects lists for the foreseeable future.

Expect Estrada to suit up for the Gulf Coast League Marlins next summer, perhaps earning a cup of coffee with Short Season A Batavia in a best-case scenario.

It isn’t your imagination: the Marlins and Angels frequently link up on these sort of low-key deals. The 2018 Angels purchased right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne from Miami when they needed rotation depth down the stretch. The following winter, left-hander Dillon Peters went west in exchange for right-handed reliever Tyler Stevens. And most recently, a depleted Marlins outfield took a flier on César Puello midway through 2019.

Fans are advised to be on the lookout for more transactions in the near future. The Marlins still haven’t announced the Corey Dickerson or Francisco Cervelli signings—it will take corresponding moves to fit them on the 40-man. Also, FNTSY Sports Radio host Craig Mish anticipates another major league signing to solidify the bullpen.