KANSAS CITY — The Royals continued their quest to restock the farm system as they traded closer Kelvin Herrera to the Nationals prior to Monday night’s game against the Rangers.
In exchange, the Royals acquired three Minor Leaguers: infielder Kelvin Gutierrez, who was ranked as the Nationals’ No. 10 prospect by MLB Pipeline, outfielder Blake Perkins, the No. 11 prospect, and right-handed pitcher Yohanse Morel.
Gutierrez will be optioned to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, Perkins will be assigned to Class A Advanced Wilmington and Morel will join the Surprise Royals (Rookie).
Herrera, who is eligible to be a free agent after this season, was believed by many to be the Royals’ top trade asset as he had a 1.05 ERA with 14 saves.
“Kelvin, he’s family,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “We’ve known Kelvin since he signed with us, since he was 16 years old. He’s one of the very best competitors that I’ve ever been around, probably this organization has seen, truthfully. Without him, there’s no way we can ever make it to a World Series, win a World Series.
“Just like I told him and [manager Ned Yost] told him, he’s about winning championships, and he’s got a chance to go over to Washington and compete to win a division and be in the playoffs, and win a World Series. Once we articulated that to him, he kind of perked up a little bit, and you could see his juices getting going a little bit.”
Herrera took the news hard at first, he said.
“This is a moment that was painful, even though they’ve been talking about it a lot in media and social media,” Herrera said. “This is a moment that I never wanted to see.
“I’ve been playing with [Danny Duffy], [Mike Moustakas], [Salvador Perez], [Eric Hosmer] since I was 18 years old. Then we came here together, made me feel better. Then after that, we went to the World Series. Winning one of them was the best experience ever.”
Moore now has traded two assets, Jon Jay and Herrera, well before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
“We’d like to be holding on to our players longer,” Moore said, “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 …
“[The three guys we got] we obviously like. We spent a great deal of time over the last couple weeks trying to find the right fits. I believe that we found three really high-quality guys. Gutierrez and Perkins are both elite-type defenders with upside with the bat. Makeup is very good.”
Gutierrez, 23, hit .274 (63-for-230) with six doubles, three triples, five homers and 36 runs scored in 58 games for Double-A Harrisburg this season. He was also 10-for-11 in stolen-base attempts. He was added to the 40-man roster last fall.
MLB Pipeline wrote of Gutierrez: “The Nationals view Gutierrez as one of the better pure hitters in their system. He has a relatively simple inside-out stroke from the right side of the plate that produces hard contact across the whole field and fuels his projection as an above-average hitter. And while he hasn’t yet figured out how to apply his raw power during games, club officials do expect him to clear more fences once he becomes more comfortable firing his barrel and turning on the ball.”
Perkins, a 21-year-old switch-hitting outfielder, was selected in the second round of the 2015 MLB Draft. He hit .234/.344/.290 (59-for-252) with 11 doubles, a homer and 39 runs scored in 65 games with Class A Advanced Potomac.
Wrote MLB Pipeline of Perkins: “The Nationals helped Perkins become a switch-hitter upon entering the pro ranks, and the club is thrilled with his early returns from both sides of the plate. He made huge strides as a lefty in 2017, collecting 25 of his 39 extra-base hits including all eight of his home runs from that side. … Perkins’ plus speed translated to 31 steals in his first full season, and he should continue to swipe bags with ease thanks to his strong on-base skills.”
Morel, a 17-year-old right-handed pitcher from Samana, Dominican Republic, is in his first professional season after signing as a non-drafted free agent last July.