Washington Nationals: Kelvin Herrera an outstanding addition

KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 12: Kelvin Herrera #40 of the Kansas City Royals throws against the Cincinnati Reds at Kauffman Stadium on June 12, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 12: Kelvin Herrera #40 of the Kansas City Royals throws against the Cincinnati Reds at Kauffman Stadium on June 12, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

In another stroke of genius from Mike Rizzo, the Washington Nationals acquired reliever Kelvin Herrera from the Kansas City Royals on Monday night.

In what is becoming an annual occurrence, the Washington Nationals have acquired an impactful late-inning reliever. On Monday night, the Nats and Kansas City Royals agreed to a trade that shipped Kelvin Herrera to DC for three minor leaguers.

Although it was evident that Herrera would be traded at some point this season, nobody saw it coming now. Impact players are not typically dealt until mid-July at the earliest, but an early trade benefitted all parties involved.

It was wise of the Nats to pull the trigger because several other National League clubs were reportedly interested as well, including the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers. Had the Nats waited to make the deal, Herrera may have ended up with their rival Braves or NL competitor Dodgers.

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On the other hand, it was wise of the Royals to make the deal now because they were able to sell high. Herrera is pitching better than ever, likely leaving his performance nowhere to go but down. There are also mild concerns about a potential injury, which would have diminished his trade value.

Despite serving as the Royals’ closer, Herrera will primarily pitch as a setup man in DC. Sean Doolittle has arguably been the best reliever in the NL, making it hard to move him out of the closer’s role. Doolittle is also under team control through 2020, while Herrera is set to become a free agent at the season’s end.

Fortunately for the Nats, Herrera has a good bit of experience in the seventh and eighth innings. He spent a few years setting up for Wade Davis and Greg Holland, including throughout Kansas City’s World Series runs.

Now, Herrera joins Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler as elite setup men for Doolittle.

Although Herrera will pitch in the late innings, his addition is hardly a reflection of the Nats’ current late-inning relievers. Madson and Kintzler have each spent time on the disabled list this year, but the trade was mostly to address to middle relievers.

The Nats’ middle relievers have struggled at times, forcing Dave Martinez to overuse Kintzler, Madson, and Doolittle. With Herrera in tow, Martinez can give the late-inning relievers more rest without sacrificing production.

Adding Herrera to the relief corps will also allow Martinez to play the matchups in the postseason. If a few big left-handed hitters are due up in the seventh or eighth with the game on the line, Martinez can turn to Doolittle and trust that Herrera can close the game out.

Herrera’s postseason experience will benefit the Nats in October. He has pitched to a 1.26 ERA in 22 postseason appearances, which is invaluable for a team that has consistently failed to make it out of the NLDS.

Finally, Herrera is new to the National League. Some hitters have seen him during interleague play or when they were playing for a different team, but the majority of the NL has never faced him. This could be overblown, but it is not inconceivable that he could improve in the NL, which is viewed as the inferior offensive league.

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Mike Rizzo has done an incredible job of transforming the bullpen in recent years, which is now further solidified by the addition of Herrera. For a team with big aspirations, this is the perfect move.