Nationals Acquire Royals Reliever Kelvin Herrera for Prospects

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The Royals have continued to be active early on the trade market, as star closer Kelvin Herrera has been traded to the Nationals in exchange for outfielder Blake Perkinsthird baseman Kelvin Gutierrez and right-handed pitcher Yohanse Morel.

Obviously. Herrera represents a significant boost to a Nationals relief corp that has been rather lackluster behind Sean Doolittle as Herrera has posted a 1.05 ERA with a 2.62 fielding independent pitching while averaging 97 miles per hour on his fastball.

While I haven’t gotten to Washington in my mid-season prospect rankings, my pre-season rankings had Perkins at 17 and Gutierrez at 18 while Morel wasn’t ranked. Perkins has a very good glove, decent speed and solid plate discipline, but I’m concerned about his hit tool, as he hit just .255 in Low-A last season and has hit just .234 in High-A this season. He looks to me like a strict defensive replacement/pinch runner in the major leagues (a la Terrance Goreand will probably be ranked 31st. His ceiling is a fourth outfielder, assuming he can improve his hit tool a bit.

Gutierrez is similar to Perkins, in that he strikes me as a bench specialty player. He has good speed, but is restricted to the infield corners defensively and doesn’t have the prototypical power for a corner infielder. Furthermore, while he has shown a nice hit tool, he has a poor approach at the plate which could impact his average at the major league level. Based on the fact that Perkins has a higher floor, Gutierrez seems likely to rank 35th.

As for Morel, he’s a lottery ticket. While there isn’t a ton of information on him, he can touch 95, and is just 17 years old. He has appeared in one professional game thus far, which shouldn’t be looked to far into. It’s really impossible to try to project what the Royals have with him just yet, therefore just consider him a lottery ticket.

The @Nationals made a big splash on the trade market on Monday when they sent three prospects to Kansas City for @KelvinHerrera40.Click To Tweet

While Herrera is strictly a rental and has about $4.4 million left on his contract, all being picked up by Washington, the Royals should have gotten more there, seeing as how Herrera was at least a reasonable candidate for a qualifying offer. While Morel is an unknown, the other two guys look like replacement level major leaguers at best. I would rather have a pre-round three draft pick than those two guys. Using 2009 as a reference (as all of the prospects are in the majors now), Kyle Seager, Wil Myers, Joe Kelly, Jake Marisnick and Robbie Erlin were all taken in the third round that year.

The Nationals did an amazing job with this trade, as it fills a need for them and didn’t cost them too much. I have been a fan of Herrera’s for years, going as far back to 2012 and 2013 when I would write letters to the Phillies suggesting that they target him in a sell-off (along with Yamaico Navarro), that wouldn’t happen for another three seasons. He has explosive velocity and the undeniable ability to control it, which is what has made him elite. While he had a down season last year, he has come back stronger than ever, and while I would not anticipate Herrera maintaining an ERA of 1.05 throughout the remainder of the year, his FIP of 2.62 is very strong.

With this early deal, it sets the market a bit low for sellers trading relievers. If the market continues to develop on this path for the summer, I would anticipate teams with controllable relief arms such as Brad Hand, Jared Hughes and Raisel Iglesias holding off until the offseason to sell, while rentals such as Jeurys Familia may not bring back returns that fans had hoped for basing the relief market off of that obscene 2016 deadline. The best hope for sellers at this point would be for the “buy-low” market attracting more teams, including those without a glaring need in the bullpen, to take shots at their relievers, giving sellers some leverage back.

While I don’t love this deal for the Royals, I was a huge fan of the return for Jon Jayas I see Elvis Luciano as a big time sleeper.

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