Washington Nationals Interested in Kansas City Royals’ reliever Kelvin Herrera

With the Washington Nationals in need of bullpen help, new reports suggest that they could be taking a look at Kelvin Herrera of the Kansas City Royals.

It may only be one month into the season, but the Washington Nationals are already out to a solid lead in the National League East. With a major-league most 16 wins to just 8 losses, they have a four game lead over the second-place Philadelphia Phillies. Before Saturday night’s games finished, FanGraphs had them pegged with an 84 percent probability of winning the division.

Now, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports is reporting that they are already interested in the Kansas City Royals’ reliever Kelvin Herrera. This is a natural course of action after the team’s failed pursuit of top-tier closers in the off-season and represents a chance to finally have a strong playoff push.

In Herrera, the Nationals would receive a prominent late-inning arm who brings a rare balance of youth and experience. While the righty is only in his age-27 season, it marks the seventh consecutive year that he has taken to the mound for the Kansas City Royals.

Over that time, he has consistently served as an elite arm from the bullpen. Armed with an overwhelmingly fast four-seamer and a solid change-up, Herrera has routinely posted sub-three earned run averages alongside excellent peripheral statistics. Arguably his best year was 2014 when he allowed just a 1.41 earned run average over 70 innings. Not only did he prevent both runs and base runners at an elite rate, but he also never let the opposing team go deep all season – all at the young age of 24.

Last year saw the reliever toss a characteristically great season. Although his earned run average, groundball rates, and opposing batting average remained roughly the same, Herrera made great strides in both the strikeout and walk departments. His strikeout rate jumped to a career-best 30.4 percent while his walk rate declined to just 4.2 percent, also a career-best. In doing so, he brought his strikeout differential into the top-ten among all major-league relievers.

Given the Nationals’ current bullpen woes, acquiring an elite reliever would certainly go a long way towards locking down the National League East crown. Most standards place the Nationals’ current bullpen as one of the worst in the big leagues, headlined by a 6.03 earned run average, .280 opposing batting average, and a WAR of -0.8, per FanGraphs.

As for whether such a transaction would make sense for the Kansas City Royals, they own one of the worst records in the major leagues and are currently six games out of first place in the American League Central. Given that the Cleveland Indians are the reigning American League Champions and look to have a healthier roster this year than last, it seems highly challenging for the Royals to overcome their large setback.

Combining the stark odds of the Kansas City Royals reaching the postseason with Herrera’s valuable arm, which still has one more year of team control, makes a deal with a contender very much a possibility. Rosenthal suggested that the Washington Nationals should have enough prospects to make such a transaction possible should the Royals be unable to turn things around over the next few months.

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