Kansas City Royals: Kelvin Herrera is key trade piece for Royals future

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 26: Kelvin Herrera
KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 26: Kelvin Herrera /

Kelvin Herrera is a major key to not only the success of the Kansas City Royals in 2018 but to the future of the team as valuable trade bait.

The 2018 version of the Kansas City Royals is not one built for immediate success. This team is built to get young guys experience and hope veterans play well enough to be wanted by other teams.

A key veteran who will likely garner attention from playoff teams is the Royals closer, Kelvin Herrera. The value of relief pitching in baseball has never been greater than it is today and he has the possibility of being the best on the market.

Herrera became a permanent fixture in the Royals bullpen in 2012 working as a setup man until he became the closer in 2017. In just over seven seasons with the team, Herrera and his 100 mph fastball amassed 421 strikeouts to only 126 walks. In a total of 418 appearances, he allowed just 132 earned runs for an overall 2.84 ERA.

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While those stats are great, his playoff stats are what any contender should drool over. In 28.2 innings worth of playoff experience, Herrera has thrown 38 strikeouts while posting a microscopic 1.26 ERA. He’s allowed zero home runs and only four earned runs total in those 28.2 innings.

Herrera brings to the table a nasty array of pitches that includes one of the best fastballs in the game. He usually is throwing between 96 and 98 mph, but when he wants to really reach back he can top 100. That blazing speed sets up hitters for his knockout pitch, a nasty slider. When you are triggered for a 100 mph fastball and he pulls the string on a slider a hitter is lucky to foul it off. He’s also got a change-up and curveball he can use to keep hitters off balance.

He’s had mixed reviews as a closer, he’s saved 44 games but he’s also blown 19 saves in his career. He was at his best when he was in the seventh and eighth-inning setup man. He posted a 1.71 ERA in 2014 as the leadoff man to the three-headed monster known as HDH. He set the table, Wade Davis served the meal and Greg Holland cleaned up.

The HDH crew lasted until September of 2015 when Holland had to have Tommy John surgery moving Davis into the closer role and Herrera as the eighth-inning setup man. That season Herrera posted 2.71 ERA in the regular season but was nearly unhittable in the postseason. He gave up just 1 earned run in 13.2 innings for an ERA of 0.66.

The Royals are desperate to have the Herrera from 2015 to return in 2018. The Royals have a young and inexperienced bullpen that needs a shutdown closer. From early season returns it doesn’t appear he will be getting as many chances as years past, so he needs to maximize the ones he gets.

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The best case scenario for the Royals is Herrera getting to the trade deadline with an ERA below two and zero blown saves. Not only would this mean more wins for the Royals this season, but it would allow the Royals to sell high on him. He could go to any contender and immediately upgrade the backend of their bullpen.

Even if the team has a lockdown closer, nobody would have an eighth-inning guy as strong as Herrera. That should be worth at least one top shelf prospect if not two. Those prospects could be keys to giving this rebuild a good jump start until the Royals best prospects come up from A ball. Herrera could be the MVP of our next run in the same way Wil Myers and Zack Greinke were to the last one.