A month before baseball’s trade season typically heats up, the Washington Nationals have made a big move.
Per reports from Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post, the Nats have acquired Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera, one of the top bullpen arms on the market.
Nationals have a deal in place for Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera, according to person familiar. Three minor leaguers going back.
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) June 18, 2018
Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that three prospects will head back to Kansas City: 23-year-old third baseman Kelvin Gutierez (the Nationals’ No. 10 prospect), 21-year-old centerfielder Blake Perkins (No. 11) and 17-year-old pitcher Yohanse Morel (unranked). That haul should help a Royals rebuild that began last winter when Kansas City let Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain walk in free agency.
As for the Nationals… Herrera is not the type of player who changes a team, but he should boost a bullpen that ranks a middling 12th in baseball in reliever ERA. The 28-year-old has recovered from an uneven 2017 to post a 1.05 ERA (2.62 FIP) this season, with 22 strikeouts compared to only two walks. He’ll likely slot alongside Ryan Madson as a chief set-up man for closer Sean Doolittle.
Beyond merely adding a good pitcher, the Nationals have indicated with this move that they are, as expected, all in on 2018. With Bryce Harper, as well as Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez, set to hit free agency next winter, Washington has long seemed to target this year as the time to chase a title. If that means paying a premium to pull of a deal earlier than the typical trade season, so be it. And if that means adding more coveted players before the July 31 trade deadline… stay tuned.
The significance of the Nats’ deal for Herrera could ripple across the league. With one veteran closer off the board and numerous contending teams still seeking bullpen help, other potentially available relievers (Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Raisel Iglesias, Shane Greene) should shoot up in value. It’s possible that the Herrera move could even accelerate the trade market, with teams seeking to pull off deals before anyone else does. In others words, baseball could have a fun six weeks ahead.