The Royals held all of the cards in negotiations with the Washington Nationals. They still managed to sell low on Kelvin Herrera.
Good general managers understand that trading established major league players for prospects is a tricky proposition can be tricky business. The proven method for success is to make sure you get the most talented prospect possible in the deal. The Royals failed to execute that strategy when sending Kelvin Herrera to the Nationals.
Instead, the Royals front office chose to go with quantity over quality. They received three prospects in exchange for their dominant reliever. Unfortunately for Kansas City fans, none of those three players ranks higher than #9 on MLB Pipeline’s list of Nationals prospects.
It’s not impossible that Blake Perkins, Kelvin Gutierrez or Yohanse Morel might develop into a quality major league player. It just happens to be pretty unlikely. Given the position the Royals found themselves in with Herrera, that’s not an acceptable return.
The list of teams interested in acquiring Herrera was a mile long. The lack of quality starting pitching available at the moment is forcing any team looking to add pitching to consider adding a high-quality reliever instead. Many scouts regarded Herrera as the top right-handed reliever available on the market.
After all, the 28-year-old righty has a miniscule ERA of just 1.05 in 27 appearances this season. He probably can’t maintain that level of production for the full season, but even if his performance regresses he will still be an above-average late inning reliever for the Nats. He’s exactly the sort of player the Royals should have been trying to use to spark a bidding war among potential contenders.
Undoubtedly, Royals management would point out that Herrera’s impending free agency worked against them in negotiations. That’s a fair point. However, they didn’t need to rush this deal now. The trade deadline is still over a month away. An offer of this quality was never going to disappear. The Royals should have been asking for a much better package to let Herrera go so soon.
In the end, the Royals have surrendered a valuable asset without getting back a potential major league star in return. That sort of prospect might not have ultimately become available to them, but they didn’t get the market a chance to develop. This a disappointing deal for a Royals franchise that desperately needs to add more high-end talent to their pipeline.