Nats acquire reliever Herrera from Royals
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals made an early summer splash on Monday evening, acquiring right-handed closer Kelvin Herrera from the Royals in exchange for a trio of Minor Leaguers: infielder Kelvin Gutierrez, outfielder Blake Perkins and right-hander Yohanse Morel.
The trade helps bolster Washington's bullpen, something that has become a midsummer tradition, by adding another reliever with experience pitching in high-leverage and big-game situations. And Herrera has been effective this season, recording a 1.05 ERA with 14 saves, 22 strikeouts and two walks allowed in 27 games for Kansas City.
The move improves an already strong late-inning arsenal, adding Herrera to the trio of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler to form a potential dynamic back end of the bullpen, one capable of shortening games in the postseason and turning early leads into victories.
"I think it's one of those situations where you can't have too many options down there," Doolittle said. "You get a guy who's pitched in every high-leverage role from the seventh inning on. He's won a World Series. He's battle-tested. We're planning on playing some really meaningful games down the stretch and making a run into the playoffs. We're going to need some help. I think it's awesome."
Even with the addition of Herrera, Doolittle will remain the Nationals' closer. Before the trade was complete, general manager Mike Rizzo went up to Doolittle to assure him of that much and let him know the team has confidence in him.
Doolittle has been lights-out this season, with a 1.37 ERA and 18 saves in 19 chances.
Manager Dave Martinez made sure to throw his support behind Doolittle as well. He was not sure exactly how he would utilize his new mix of late-inning relievers, but he'll have four pitchers with closing experience once Kintzler returns from the disabled list.
"I'm excited to have him. He's going to fit right in," Martinez said of Herrera. "He's closed games. He's come in in the eighth. For me, we have an All-Star closer right now, so he'll be asked to do some different things."
Plus, Nats relievers have shown they have little ego when it comes to deciding who pitches in what role, so incorporating Herrera into that fold should be simple.
"I don't think anybody's going to have a problem with it," Madson said. "Let the old horse rest a little bit. He can let me pitch every once in a while, and I'll be fine. All hands on deck, of course, when playoff time comes around. So I don't see anybody else losing any sleep about it."
To acquire Herrera, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, the Nationals had to part with their Nos. 10- and 11-ranked prospects as rated by MLB Pipeline in Gutierrez and Perkins, respectively. But they held on to their top prospects.
A year ago, he acquired Doolittle, Kintzler and Madson to save a disastrous bullpen. Even though the Nationals' bullpen has been steady this season, Rizzo saw an opportunity to improve and try to build the kind of unit necessary for postseason success.
Herrera owns a 1.26 ERA in 22 games and 38 strikeouts without allowing a home run. That kind of experience will be valuable to a Nats club with lofty postseason aspirations.
"It takes a lot of quality arms," said Madson, Herrera's teammate with the Royals in 2015. "You look at any postseason team, there's a lot of quality arms out there. … So you can never too have many, and quality like these. [Herrera] will be a welcome addition."