Nationals acquire reliever Kelvin Herrera from Royals to bolster back of the bullpen

The Nationals jumped out ahead of the trade market Monday night, acquiring closer Kelvin Herrera from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for minor leaguers Blake Perkins, Kelvin Gutierrez and Yohanse Morel. In so doing, they compiled the closest thing to a “super bullpen” they have ever had, adding a closer with World Series experience to their back three of Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, and Sean Doolittle — and keeping one of the best relievers likely to be available at this year’s deadline away from rivals who would likely have pursued him.

The Nationals will do all this without surrendering any of their most prized prospects, which makes sense given they are effectively trading for four-plus months of a pitcher who throws an inning at a time and will become a free agent after the season. They will pay Herrera the remainder of his salary, roughly $3.4 million, but in a season in which they are already planning to cross the luxury tax threshold, the bump does not make a dramatic difference.

Herrera is 28 years old and pitched to a 1.05 ERA in 27 games for Kansas City. His fastball sits in the high-90s.

With the move, Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo continues his annual tradition of acquiring big-name relievers in mid-summer deals, adding Herrera’s name to a list that includes Kintzler, Madson, Doolittle, Mark Melancon, Jonathan Papelbon and others. This deal comes weeks ahead of when Rizzo made those past moves, indicating that the Nationals identified the reliever they felt they needed and saw no reason to wait.

That the Nationals acquired him without touching any of their top-rated prospects speaks both to the depth of their system and the nature of the deal. Gutierrez is a 23-year-old infielder who is hitting .274 for Class AA Harrisburg, a high-contact type of whom the Nationals thought highly. He entered the season as their 12th rated prospect, according to Baseball America. The Nationals drafted Perkins out of high school in the second round of the 2015 draft, seeing potential in a smart player who was, at the time, a toolsy teenager. He is now 21, hitting .236 with a homer for Class A Potomac, ranked as the 11th-best prospect in their system. Morel is 17, currently pitching with the Nationals’ Dominican League team, and can touch 95. The Royals are betting on their evaluators in this deal and, in so doing, making the kind of deal that netted the Nationals hidden gems like Tanner Roark, under-the-radar types in whom they see something they think others missed.

Because the Nationals did not touch their top prospects in the deal, they have an arsenal of appealing talent from which to deal for a starter at the trade deadline, should they decide to do so. In Herrera, the Nationals address their most glaring annual need — more bullpen talent — though the need might have been less glaring this year than in years past. They are overflowing with position players. They could use some insurance in the starting rotation, particularly with Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson out with injury.

But the Nationals still have a month to plot further deadline deals. Herrera’s arrival will bring more imminent decisions. As it stands, the Nationals were going to have to send someone out of their bullpen Tuesday to bring up whoever will start the series opener against the Orioles. Once Herrera arrives, they will need to send out someone else. Wander Suero and Tim Collins have options, but both have pitched well. Justin Miller has proven himself a reliable option in big spots despite two rough outings recently. Matt Grace has no options remaining, so designating him for assignment would mean subjecting him to waivers. He might not clear them. Clubhouse staple Shawn Kelley is in the final year of a three-year deal worth $15 million and has struggled at times this season, allowing five homers in 14 innings. Making room will not be easy.

Still, short-term complications do not overshadow the long-term implications of this deal, which give the Nationals the most loaded bullpen they have had in years. If they carry the traditional seven relievers, the Nationals could operate a bullpen in which Miller is the fifth option, Solis the sixth and one of the remaining pitchers the seventh. They are deep and deep in players with closing experience. Herrera has also pitched in and won a World Series. The Nationals hope that experience will become relevant.

Read more on the Nationals:

Matt Adams is a game-time decision and other suspended game weirdness

First homers off Nationals’ Ryan Madson lead to sweep by Blue Jays

All-Star FanFest will feature seven Hall of Famers, 23 former Nationals

‘Where is Ryan Zimmerman?’ — and other Nationals questions

MLB unveils jerseys, caps and socks for 2018 All-Star Game at Nationals Park

Nationals’ Jeremy Hellickson likely to throw simulated game Tuesday

Source link

Written by sortiwa