9:39am: Herrera has evidently taken a few more steps in the right direction, as he has now posted another video to Twitter in which he’s throwing lightly from his pitching motion.
9:25am: Former Royals and Nationals righty Kelvin Herrera had seemed primed to enter this winter’s market as one of the top relief assets, but his 2018 season came to a premature end when he suffered a torn Lisfranc ligament in his left foot that ultimately required surgery. Herrera remains a fascinating part of the relief picture, particularly since, as Rob Bradord of WEEI.com writes, he’s showing progress in his effort to return to the field.
Herrera’s timeline is still not certain, as he’s still clearing hurdles. But there’s a path open by which he could be ready for the start of the 2019 season, per Bradford, even if the smart money perhaps remains on a more conservative schedule. Notably, Herrera could enter the new year ready to participate in baseball activities — if he gets a thumbs-up in an upcoming medical check-up and is able to continue progressing in the meantime.
To this point, Herrera is only capable of light jogging. As he has documented on his Twitter account, though, he has already moved from this to this over the past six weeks — which highlights both the seriousness of the injury and the real strides he has already made.
There’s quite a lot left to learn over the coming weeks, clearly. In addition to the questions of physical progress themselves, Herrera’s own intentions aren’t yet known. The hurler will not turn 29 until New Year’s Eve and obviously possesses an impressive track record on the mound. That leaves him with some possibilities.
In terms of a contract, it feels likely that Herrera will look for a pillow deal rather than trying for multiple years — though perhaps that latter scenario cannot be ruled out entirely. MLBTR pegged Herrera to land a one-year, $8MM deal on the open market. It seems reasonable to expect that his contract would also include some other elements, with the recent deal inked by Tommy John rehabber Trevor Rosenthal serving as a potential model.
The Rosenthal situation offers some other potential similarities but also some important distinctions. He, too, is a still-youthful flamethrower (albeit a less consistent performer) who’s coming back from major surgery. Rosenthal had work done to his arm, which could conceivably be more concerning — though Herrera’s much more exotic injury (for a pitcher) is perhaps a greater unknown. In his case, though, he was able to throw for scouts and show that he was more or less back to full health, with his full velocity and arsenal of pitches nearly at hand.
For Herrera, waiting to take the hill to show his stuff to scouts would present some risks and possible rewards. The downside scenario would be one in which Herrera really isn’t at full speed and teams have already spent up much of their available payroll. But the upside is that he’d represent something of a late-breaking addition to the market who could spark a spring bidding war.
No doubt Herrera’s reps are weighing all the options and engaging with clubs in some preliminary chatter. And it’s notable that, as Bradford writes, there’s a real possibility that this winter’s market for relievers could develop over a broad timeline. With a fair number of matches yet to be made, and little in the way of clear matches, Herrera could increasingly be a factor as the puzzle takes shape. The Red Sox are at least a hypothetical suitor, Bradford notes, given the “industry speculation” that the organization will be “waiting out the relieving market” this winter. Other clubs, certainly, could take a similar approach.