Kelvin Herrera, #ForeverRoyal

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Minutes before Monday night’s series opener with the Rangers, the Royals announced the trade of closer Kelvin Herrera to the Washington Nationals for three minor leaguers: 3B Kelvin Gutierrez, OF Blake Perkins and right-handed pitcher Yohanse Morel.

“It’s been an amazing journey with Kelvin, but we felt it was best case for everybody,” GM Dayton Moore said. “He’s one of the best relievers in the game and this is the deal we felt made the most sense. He’s family. We love him. And we want him to do really well…Without him, there’s no way we can ever make it to a World Series, win a World Series.”

Herrera, who had not allowed a walk all season until his last appearance – a blown save against the Reds a week ago, will help bloster a Nats bullpen that also features Sean Doolittle (2-2, 1.71 ERA, 0.568 WHIP, 12.2 K/9, 19/20 saves). Herrera, who will be a free agent after this season, was one of the few bright spots for the Royals (22-51), recording a 1.05 ERA with 14 saves (16 chances), 22 strikeouts and two walks in 27 games.

A testimony to his character, Herrera spoke to the media during the Royals 6-3 loss.

He said: “This is a moment that I was not expecting. This is a moment that I never, like, want to see it…It’s always fun (to compete for championships), but I was born and raised as a player here and this is tough right now…This is a moment that was painful, even though they’ve been talking a lot in media and social media. This is a moment that I never wanted to see. I just want to say thanks to all the fans for the support, thanks to the Kansas City Royals.”

He also thanks Kansas City, via Twitter:

Gutierrez, 23, and Perkins (22), ranked 10th and 11th, respectively, in the Nats system, and now rank eighth and 15th for the Royals. Morel, a 17-year old with a big arm, is a lottery ticket.

Gutierrez, from Pimentel, Dominican Republic, was hitting .274 (63-for-230) with six doubles, three triples, five homers and 36 runs scored in 58 games for Harrisburg (AA) this season. He’s also 10-for-11 in stolen base attempts this year. He has been a midseason All-Star each of the last three seasons in three different leagues. He was added to the Nationals’ 40-man roster on November 20, 2017. He is a career .285/.344/.388 hitter in six minor league seasons (416 games). Originally a SS, he is a big dude with power potential.

Perkins, a switch-hitter from Litchfield Park, AZ, is a former second round pick (2015). He’s hitting .234/.344/.290 with 11 doubles and 1 HR in 65 games in the High Class-A Carolina League, where he ranks second with 42 walks and 10th with 12 steals. He has yet to hit above .255 in his brief career, where he has slashed .239/.332/.322. He was a South Atlantic League All-Star in 2017, leading the league in runs (105) and walks (72), while also ranking sixth in stolen bases (31).

Morel, a 17-year-old from the Dominican Republic, touches 95 on the fun with a plus-slider and is years away from making an impact at the big league level. He’s made one pro appearance, tossing 3.1 innings for the Nats’ Dominican Summer League team on June 2.

Time will tell if it’s a good deal for the Royals. And like many trades, the takes, from fans to “experts,” were all over the place – one evaluator said Dayton Moore got scared and made a deal that he could have made six weeks from now, at the July 31 trade deadline. A scout said, “Blake Perkins is athletic, but he isn’t going to hit enough. Kelvin Gutierrez, while a good defender, won’t provide enough offensive impact at 3B.” Yohanse Morel is 17 and has 3.1 IP as a pro. Decent but not elite prospects.” The Royals, however, like the return. Their scouts rate Blake Perkins as a 70 runner and 70 defender who’s learning to switch-hit in high A at 21. They think Gutierrez is an above average defender who who has the capability to move all over the field and Morel is a 17-year-old power arm that has had Reynaldo Lopez, also formerly of the Nats system, comparisons.

There was also speculation that the Royals took a little less in the deal so the Nats would take on all of Herrera’s remaining salary ($4.4 million).

In reality, it’s nearly impossible to grade a trade like this initially. You can only really grade it down the road. Remember when the Wade Davis trade was considered a loss for the Royals because they gave up too much? Remember when the Brandon Maurer trade was considered a win for the Royals? Let’s not forget that the Royals gave up only one Top 10 prospect (Brandon Finnegan) in the 3-prospect deal for a rental player in Johnny Cueto. Dayton Moore also added that teams just aren’t trading away big prospects anymore, preferring to hold on to them. It is clear that in today’s trade market, players with multiple years of control will bring back more of a return than rental players, even when the rental players are better players.

Herrera was with the Royals since 2007 when he was signed as a 16-year-old for a measly $15,000, where he promised to not let the Royals down. He debuted in 2011, and will always be remembered for being the front end of HDH – the Herrera-Davis-Holland trio that revolutionized bullpen usage. This trade signals the closing of the final chapter on the HDH, who went 62-44 with 29 saves and a 2.32 ERA, 1.005 WHIP, 11.2 K/9, 0.5 HR/9, 3.0 BB/9 in 953.2 relief innings, book. In 2014, they were the most dominant backend of a bullpen, possibly ever:

  • Herrera: 1.41 ERA, 1.143 WHIP, 7.6 K/9 in 70 IP (2.8 WAR)
  • Davis: 9-2, 3 saves, 33 holds, 1.00 ERA, 0.847 WHIP, 13.6 K/9 in 72 IP (3.7 WAR)
  • Holland: 1.44 ERA, 0.914 WHIP, 46/48 saves, 13.0 K/9 in 62.1 IP (2.5 WAR)

He was bad last year after taking over as the team’s closer (3-3, 4.25 ERA, 1.348 WHIP, 26/31 save chances), where 73% of his outings were scoreless, but has been one of the best one’s in baseball so far this year (98% of appearances, scoreless). In Washington, he will continue to work in high-leverage situations, but not as the closer. Last night, he made his debut and cruised through the eighth inning with a 6-pitch hold. In Kansas City, his 111 holds are the most in franchise history. His other ranks in the Top 10:

2nd in:

  • K/9 (8.9)
  • K/BB ratio (3.42)

3rd:

  • games pitched (442)
  • batting average against (.223)
  • WHIP (1.131)

6th in saves (57)

Herrera had a losing record here, 23-27, but posted a 2.75 ERA and was a 2-time All-Star. He was nails in the postseason, with a 1.26 ERA, 1.081 WHIP, 11.9 K/9 in 22 games (28.2 IP), with a 2-0 record, allowing 0 HR, while striking out 38.

He had plenty of memorable moments in a Royals uniform. We’ll revisit the ones we remember most, now:

October 15, 2014: Herrera pitches 1.2 scoreless, allowing just one hit while striking out one in the Royals’ Game 4 ALCS win. He pitched out of a jam in the 6th and ended his outing with an impressive 90 mph offspeed pitch with his signature celebratory “spin.” He hit 100 mph on the gun, as well.

October 22, 2014: Herrera pitches 1.2 hitless frames to earn the win in World Series Game 2 – the Royals first World Series win since 1985.

October 24, 2014: Herrera’s first (and only) MLB plate appearance, and it just so happened to be in the World Series. The AB went about as one would expect:

Strangely, Yost elected to NOT pinch-hit for Herrera, then removed him after the inning.

October 29, 2014: Herrera pitches 2.2 innings of scoreless relief, allowing three hits and striking out 4, in Game 7. Entering the game in the fourth inning, nobody out, and runners on the corners, he allowed the inherited runner to score, which ended up being the go-ahead run.

April 19, 2015: In what the most eventful and exciting series in April one could ask for, which featured several ejections, Kelvin Herrera, “nearly killed a guy” when he threw high-heat “near” Brett Lawrie’s headwhich featured several ejections, Kelvin Herrera, “nearly killed a guy” when he threw high-heat “near” Brett Lawrie’s head:

May 1, 2015: Herrera beats the former AL MVP Miguel Cabrera in an epic 10-ptich battle, that even Miggy appreciated.

October 16, 2015: Herrera mowed down the Jays with triple-digit heat in a 1-2-3 seventh in Game 1 of the ALCS:

October 17, 2015: Herrera earned his second hold in as many ALCS games after the Royals had just scored five in the bottom of the seventh. He ended it with a strikeout of Russell Martin:

November 1, 2015: Herrera threw three scoreless innings (the seventh, eighth and ninth) in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series and helped the Royals get the game to extra innings. They eventually beat the Mets 7-2 and clinched their first World Series title in 30 years. Herrera started if off by striking out the side in the eighth inning. He also tossed scoreless frames in the ninth and 10th and gave up just one hit in the three innings.

How will you remember Kelvin Herrera? What are your favorite El Toro moments? Here’s what his now former teammates had to say:

  • Danny Duffy: “Roomies at the Days Inn in Surprise, AZ for Extended Spring…to world champions together. This dude brings new definition to competitor! Love you bro! Washington got a good one! Good luck my dude! Royals forever no matter where you go.”
  • Alex Gordon: “Ned walked in crying to the training room. That should just explain how much (Kelvin) meant to us…I think everybody knew it was going to happen. I don’t think we knew it was going to happen this soon.”
  • Mike Moustakas: “We were pretty lucky to see (HDH) every day. The fans were lucky to see that. Just having them going out there every day and picking our offense up. We knew once we got in the fifth or sixth or seventh inning, if we could find a way to get up by one run, we were going to win that game. I mean, having three closers pitching in the seventh, eighth and ninth was obviously unbelievable. And something I will remember [forever]…Ned told us the news, and we rushed in here as soon as we could, and said our good-byes. Luckily, at least we got to say our good-byes, and tell him how much he meant to all of us, and just what a great teammate he was, and player and person for this city.”
  • Salvador Perez: “I didn’t want to stay there for a long time, because he maybe would make me cry. Kind of hard, bro. I’ve known him since the first time I got here in Kansas City, 2006, 12 years ago. Expected for him to get traded. And a good thing for him. He’s gonna be a free agent next year, and maybe we’ll have him back. He has the opportunity to again be in the playoffs, a great teammate. It’s kind of good for him, for his career. We’re sad, I’m sad, and I love him like my brother.”

The Royals have now dealt two players for five minor leagues, and we’re still 40 days away from the deadline.

“We’d like to be holding on to our players longer, but where we are in the standings and what we’re faced with, how we’re playing, if we can get the right deals, it’s important to move (now),” Moore said in reference to the Jon Jay and Herrera deals.

Who’s next?

Stay tuned.

***

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