The Washington Nationals significantly strengthened their bullpen Monday, acquiring two-time All-Star closer Kelvin Herrera from the Kansas City Royals on Monday for a package of three prospects: outfielder Blake Perkins, third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez, and right-hander Yohanse Morel.
Herrera will boost an already excellent Nationals bullpen as they look to secure a third straight division title. Whether he'll close in Washington remains to be seen, but manager Dave Martinez now has multiple options with late-inning experience in a bullpen that includes current closer Sean Doolittle, plus veterans Ryan Madson and the injured Brandon Kintzler.
Following the Nationals' game Monday, Martinez told Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post that Doolittle will continue to act as the team's closer, while Herrera "will be asked to do some different things."
"I think it's one of those situations where you can't have too many options down there," Doolittle said of acquiring Herrera, according to MLB.com's Jamal Collier. "You get a guy who's pitched in every high-leverage role from the seventh inning on. He's won a World Series. He's battle-tested. We're planning on playing some really meaningful games down the stretch and making a run into the playoffs. We're going to need some help. I think it's awesome."
Herrera has spent his entire eight-year career with the Royals, where he was part of the vaunted bullpen that helped them to consecutive AL pennants and a World Series championship in 2014 and '15. He owns a career 1.26 ERA with 38 strikeouts in postseason play - experience that likely stuck out to the Nationals.
The 28-year-old struggled in 2017 but has returned to form in the early months of this season, posting a 1.05 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 14 saves, and 22 strikeouts to just two walks over 27 appearances. He will be a free agent at season's end.
Kansas City acquired two of Washington's top 20 prospects as ranked by MLB Pipeline in Gutierrez (No. 10) and Perkins (No. 11). Gutierrez, 23, was on the Nationals' 40-man roster at the time of the trade; in 58 games at Double-A Harrisburg this season, he hit .274/.321/.391 with five home runs, 26 RBIs, and 10 stolen bases.
Perkins, who primarily plays center field, was Washington's second-round draft pick in 2015. The 21-year-old owns a .234/.344/.290 line with a homer, 11 doubles, and 12 stolen bases at Single-A Potomac.
Morel, 17, signed with the Nationals last July and has made one appearance for the team's Dominican Summer League affiliate. He is not ranked among the Nationals' top 30 prospects, though Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that some Washington officials liken Morel to Chicago White Sox pitcher and former Nats prospect Reynaldo Lopez.