Barring a turnaround over the next couple months, the 7-15 Royals will be prime candidates to sell several veterans prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. One of those players could be closer Kelvin Herrera, who’s already drawing the Nationals’ interest, reports FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (video link).
The Nationals were connected to multiple high-profile closers in the offseason, including Kenley Jansen in free agency and David Robertson via the trade route, but elected to begin the year with in-house options. That hasn’t gone swimmingly thus far for Washington, which has seen Opening Day closer Blake Treinen, current closer Shawn Kelley and fellow late-game option Koda Glover post disappointing results. The best of three has been Glover, but the hard-throwing rookie landed on the disabled list with a hip impingement earlier this week after allowing four earned runs on seven hits and a walk, with six strikeouts, in 8 2/3 innings. Meanwhile, in 19 combined frames, Treinen and Kelley have yielded 16 earned runs on 10 walks and 25 hits, with 21 strikeouts, and have blown two of eight save chances. What’s more, given Kelley’s history as a two-time Tommy John surgery recipient, the Nats are wary of using the 33-year-old on consecutive days, having done so just once this season.
At 16-8, Washington doesn’t look like a team with many weaknesses (though center fielder Adam Eaton’s knee injury is troubling), but its bullpen has been a glaring issue in April. The unit’s 6.08 ERA and 5.09 FIP rank toward the bottom of the majors, so it would behoove the Nationals to bolster their relief corps if its performance doesn’t improve in the coming months. Herrera would theoretically help the Nats do that, as he has typically been a premier reliever since debuting in 2012.
In eight innings this season, the 27-year-old Herrera has only allowed two earned runs on three hits and a walk, albeit with just five strikeouts. His velocity is at its usual level, though, and both his hard-throwing ways and history of positive results mean he should bring back a quality return for the Royals in a trade. Rosenthal contends that the Nationals have enough well-regarded position player prospects to swing a deal for Herrera, who’s controllable via arbitration through next season, citing three outfielders – the newly promoted Rafael Bautista, Juan Soto and Andrew Stevenson – as potential trade chips. Both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline place the 18-year-old Soto and Stevenson, 22, among the Nats’ five best prospects.