WASHINGTON — Getting a jump on the trade deadline to add talent to the back of their bullpen, the Washington Nationals picked up right-hander Kelvin Herrera from the Kansas City Royals on Monday for three minor leaguers.
The Nationals sent infielder Kelvin Gutierrez, outfielder Blake Perkins and 17-year-old pitcher Yohanse Morel to Kansas City in the deal announced during Washington’s doubleheader against the New York Yankees.
Herrera has 14 saves and a 1.05 ERA this season. He’s allowed three earned runs in 25 2/3 innings while striking out 22 batters and walking two.
"It’s just a moment you don’t want to see," Herrera said about leaving KC. "It’s always hard. I was born and raised (as) a player here."
The 28-year-old is a two-time AL All-Star who helped Kansas City win the 2015 World Series — and is among the last players left from that title team. He is 23-27 with 57 saves and a 2.75 ERA across 442 games in relief over eight seasons in the majors.
"We’ve known Kelvin since he signed with us when he was 16 years old. He’s one of the very best competitors that I’ve ever been around, probably that this organization has seen," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "Without him, there is no way we can ever make it to the World Series, win a World Series."
Herrera joins lefty closer Sean Doolittle and eighth-inning righty Ryan Madson in the back of Washington’s bullpen. Brandon Kintzler, the usual seventh-inning man for Washington, went on the disabled list June 10 with a right forearm flexor strain.
Instead of waiting to make moves at the July 31 non-waiver deadline, the Nationals opted to strike now. They are the two-time reigning NL East champions but have never won a post-season series. Washington also currently stands in second place in the division, entering Monday 3 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Braves.
The Royals, meanwhile, are already way out of contention in the AL Central in last place and 22-49 going into the day. They already shipped Jon Jay to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a pair of minor leaguers earlier in June.
"We’d like to be holding onto our players longer," Moore said, "but where we are in the standings and what we’re faced with and how we’re playing, if we can get the right move, it’s important to move."
This is also the second time in recent years the Royals traded away a high-profile closer, after sending Wade Davis to the Chicago Cubs in December 2016.
The Nationals avoided parting with any of their highest-regarded prospects.
Kansas City said Gutierrez will head to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, Perkins will be assigned to Class A Wilmington and Morel will be sent to rookie ball.
Gutierrez is a 23-year-old third baseman who was batting .274 with five homers at Double-A Harrisburg in Washington’s system.
Perkins is a 21-year-old switch-hitter who was a second-round draft pick in 2015. He was hitting .234 at Class A Potomac.
Morel is a righty from the Dominican Republic in his first professional season.