Yesterday we saw the first major trade of the baseball season in 2018 go down (sorry, I’m not counting Matt Harvey to Cincinnati as a major trade at this point). The Nationals and Royals made an agreement as Kansas City closer Kelvin Herrera was traded to Washington for three prospects. More of that information can be found here.
Today I will look at the impact at the trade from all angles such as the Nationals, Royals, the National League, and the teams who now may be in a bind of getting a closer to help down the stretch.
FOR THE NATIONALS: Compared to years’ past, the Washington bullpen hasn’t been a complete disaster. Sammy Solis has been serviceable as has Justin Miller. And Sean Doolittle is having a great year closing games out (18 saves and a 1.47 ERA with a 0.55 WHIP). But Ryan Madson is about to have his arm fall off and is having a horrid year while Brandon Kintzler hasn’t amounted to much. So this was a trade the Nationals need to make. The funny part is though, Washington’s offense is a problem. Many are still going “oh well, when Daniel Murphy gets back to the swing of things and Ryan Zimmerman gets healthy and it will wake up Bryce Harper and the Nats will roll.” Hasn’t been the case. Zimmerman when healthy hasn’t done much. Harper has been on a massive downhill run as he’s gone 1 for his last 24 with only 3 walks and 9 K’s in that span (and until last game had a 2-K streak of four games). He’s also only hit 1 homer in June. So the Nationals may need to think of adding a bat whether it is at CF in getting somebody like Starling Marte. As honestly, the weak spot of Washington really hasn’t been the pitching but the hitting. But their hope is relying on two guys who have been injury-prone lately and one wonders if Bryce Harper’s mind is elsewhere right now. As for what they gave up, they gave up 3 prospects on the fringe of being in the top 10 of their farm, which is a decent farm, but not world-beating.
FOR THE ROYALS: Well, shocker here, they’re selling. Everybody knew it since the Royals are 22-50 and only a game ahead of Baltimore of being the worst team in baseball. But stunning this early, as many figured that the Royals could have gotten more in return than what they actually had. It means that Mike Moustakas is definitely next on the trade market (my guess is Cardinals or Yankees) and that one is definitely one they can get value in. I’m not sure if anybody wants the likes of Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon, or Danny Duffy at this point since all are working on train-wreck seasons. At this point the Royals would be lucky to net anything for any of them. But the trade itself helps their farm system which is very much barren. So Kelvin Gutierrez, who plays 3B probably wouldn’t have cracked the Nationals lineup with Anthony Rendon there has a good shot now with the Royals, though his numbers in the Minors are so/so (.285 average but only a .732 OPS and doesn’t have a whole lot of power). Perkins hasn’t really panned out since being a 2nd rounder for the Nationals in 2015 (.655 OPS in the Minors), but had a good start this season with Harrisburg before being sent back down to High-A with Potomac. Again, probably a new start with a team that will have a lot of open spots down the road will help out. And Yohanse Morel is only 17 as there isn’t much to talk about though his ceiling may be very high right now.
FOR THE REST OF THE NL: The only team that the Nationals may have really stung was their NL East rivals of the Phillies, who also need a closer and have the resources to get one. The Braves, Cubs, Brewers, and Dodgers are all set at the closer spot and most of them have quality set-up guys. Does it tip the scale in Washington’s favor on the Braves right now? No. The Braves have needs (a veteran pitcher & another reliever would help and an upgrade at third) but I don’t think it does much in the way of scaring Atlanta to this point.
THE MARKET FOR CLOSER NOW: Herrera was the best available closer on the market. The question will be who is out there now that could be labeled as the best available? Hard to tell. Zach Britton just came back and if he pitches well, could help a contender (Phillies?). Shane Greene’s name has been talked about a couple of times (though Detroit is only sitting 3 back of Cleveland surprisingly and may hold off on selling). If Minnesota is more out than in, Fernando Rodney would be available as he’s had a “decent” season with the Twins while Joakim Soria is with the White Sox, also having a decent season. But maybe the best available is Brad Hand, if the Padres were willing to move him. He may be the best one as the others may be “buyer beware” notably with Rodney and Soria. They both have been closers for years but they’ve also been closers that have imploded on more than a few occasions throughout their career (hence why they’re journeymen closers).
WINNER: Nationals. They added another arm in the pen and if the Nats get their act together can really make it into 7 inning games with the likes of Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez. But right now it means nothing if the offense can’t get their act together.
LOSER: Royals and Phillies. The only reason why I put the Royals here is because they may have gone knee-jerk on this trade as they could have gotten more and perhaps drove the price up between teams like Washington, Philadelphia, and maybe Cleveland. But maybe Dayton Moore has a lot of faith in his scouts they are doing the right thing. So who am I to say? As for the Phillies, I had thought Philadelphia would make a big push for Herrera. The Nationals keep them from getting the closer that they need to make the jump ahead and get closer to the Braves. They may shift their attention to Brad Hand, who may cost a little bit more, assuming they go that route. But time will tell as with every trade made.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat