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Grading the Kelvin Herrera trade for the Nationals and Royals

With tonight’s Kelvin Herrera trade, the market for rentals has been set.

Tampa Bay Rays v Kansas City Royals
Kelvin Herrera
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

It’s getting harder and harder to forget that the market for rentals in 2016 was simply insane. Aroldis Chapman was traded to the Cubs for Gleyber Torres plus more, and Andrew Miller cost the Indians Clint Frazier along with Justus Sheffield.

It seemed to be the exact opposite in 2017, as JD Martinez only cost the Diamondbacks Dawel Lugo, Jose King, and Sergio Alcantara. Not bad prospects, but no where near the level of a Torres, Frazier, or even Sheffield.

This year Kelvin Herrera was considered to be one of the top overall rentals on the block, and with Zach Britton’s health issues it was easy to put Herrera on top of the list of rentals for the bullpen.

The Nationals jumped into the market in mid-June and set the rental price for 2018. So was the Herrera return closer to 2016 or 2017?

Washigton Nationals Grade: A+

Receive: Kelvin Herrera

Coming into today the Washington Nationals had a lot of things. They had an offense that while not quite performing up to their potential, they have the ability to scare any starting pitcher with their power, speed, and experience. They had a strong rotation with a legitimate ace and potentially a second if he can get healthy. They even had a closer who is looking like an All Star.

However they also had a huge hole in their bullpen. Minus that potential All Star closer, Sean Doolittle, only one reliever who has pitched at least 16 innings this year had an ERA+ of even 95 (Sammy Solis) and for reference a 100 ERA+ is considered average.

The Nats were in desperate need of adding bullpen help, and they also faced competition in the relief pitcher market from NL East division leader Atlanta. So by trading for Herrera, they not only made a major stride in filling a weakness, but they also kept their main competition from getting him.

Herrera is a special reliever. He’s a two time All Star. He’s been a key contributor on a World Series champion and pitched in a second World Series. He’s worked the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings during his time with the Royals. He was pitching like a guy headed for the All Star game with his 1.05 ERA and 0.82 WHIP.

Basically Herrera is a perfect fit for the Nats. He allows them to leave Doolittle in the role he has been excelling in. Maybe even more key is the fact Herrera gives them some flexibility to use him in different situations...important when the Nats bullpen can probably stand to add another piece for the pennant race.

They even get some extra points for making this addition without touching any of their highest end prospects.

Kansas City Royals Grade C+

Receive: Blake Perkins, Kelvin Gutierrez, and Yohanse Morel

It’s a sad day in Kansas City as another one of the key contributors from their 2015 World Series team is forced to move on.

Kelvin Gutierrez is the most well known prospect they received. Gutierrez is a third baseman in Double A set to turn 24 years old later this season. He’s a very solid fielder at the hot corner which is not surprising for a former shortstop, and he’s also a better runner than most third basemen.

Gutierrez is a guy who can hit. He’s hitting .274 with 10 steals, and when you combine that with his defense he has a chance to become a starter in the near future.

Unfortunately, he feels more like a second division starter because he doesn’t have much power in his bat nor does he walk all that much. In his 230 at bats this year, he had just 6 doubles, 3 triples, and 5 homers, adding just 16 walks to 62 strikeouts. He can help fill the hole the eventual Mike Moustakas departure will create, but he will be a below average starter with weaker on-base and slugging percentages than you would like from your third baseman.

Blake Perkins is the other guy that is also a known commodity. He’s a 21 year old center fielder who was playing in High A this year. He’s most known for his plus speed and defense, but he’s a more than capable hitter despite having what I’ll consider below average power.

Perkins was hitting .234/.344/.290 in 252 at bats. Perkins had 11 doubles with just a single home run. He also added 12 steals.

For a guy with limited power, Perkins strikes out more than you’d like - he’s got 67 strikeouts in those 252 at bats...but he does balance that out with great plate discipline - something that has helped him record 42 walks already this season.

Perkins is a guy with two possible outcomes. If he can get his power to play a little more, even just his gap power, he has a chance to be a traditional leadoff hitter because of his great on base skills and the ability to steal 30 bases in a season. If the power never comes, he probably ends up more of a fourth outfielder with speed and defense.

The third guy is an unknown to most, Yohanse Morel. Morel is a 17 year old Dominican right hander who has pitched all of one career game in the Dominican Summer League. Morel has a big arm, but let’s face it he is very raw and years away. Morel could be good, but he may never reach Double A, making him a complete lottery ticket.

This return is very underwhelming for me. Gutierrez doesn’t project to be a solid starter for me. I see Perkins being a fourth outfielder more likely than being a starter. And then Morel is too far away to seriously project anything at this point.

The Royals would have done better if they tried mimicking the Padres strategy of getting the best possible single prospect they can in a deal. This is the strategy that netted the Pads Anderson Espinoza, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Noah Naylor. Getting a Luis Garcia, Yasel Antuna, or maybe even Carter Kieboom would have been the better strategy for a team that needs to rebuild.