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Baseball Daily Dose

Daily Dose: Bolstering the Pen

by David Shovein
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Bolstering the Bullpen

Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo has been no stranger to acquiring elite late-inning relievers to bolster the back-end of his bullpen. Over the last three calendar years, he has traded for Jonathan Papelbon, Mark Melancon, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler.

The last three names on that list have formed a highly formidable trio this season for the Nationals. They have also been heavily relied upon. Kintzler is currently on the disabled list with a right forearm flexor strain, and the 37-year-old Madson has shown signs of wearing down while already appearing in 26 games this season.

So Rizzo went out and did what he does best, acquiring Royals’ closer Kelvin Herrera on Monday for a trio of minor leaguers.

The 28-year-old right-hander has been outstanding this season, posting a 1.05 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 22/2 K/BB ratio across 25 2/3 innings this season while converting 14 of his first 16 save chances. Combining him with incumbent closer Sean Doolittle gives the Nationals perhaps the best one-two punch in the National League to close out games. It also takes some of the load off of Madson and Kintzler who will continue to function in setup roles.

Herrera is in the final season of his contract and is owed roughly $3.4 million over the remainder of the season. The Nationals are believed to be on the hook for the entirety of that amount remaining on his contract.

While nothing definitive has been announced yet as to how the Nationals will utilize their new bullpen, you’d have to think that Doolittle will continue to function as the team’s primary closer, while Herrera will pitch primarily in the eighth inning. They could always be flipped on occasion though if there are tough left-handers due up in the eighth inning.

If that is indeed the case, it’s a death blow to the fantasy value of Herrera. Those who have gotten exceptional results out of him so far were hoping to at least have him remain in the closer’s role until the end of July, where he was expected to be flipped at the trade deadline. Now, Herrera owners will have to scramble to secure saves elsewhere.

One place to look, could be the vacancy at the back end of the Royals’ bullpen. While he doesn’t have any closing experience at the major league level, Kevin McCarthy is expected to get the first crack at the closer’s gig there.

The 26-year-old right-hander owns a 3.86 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 19/7 K/BB ratio across 30 ⅓ innings on the season. The ratios may not be pretty, and the strikeout rate leaves much to be desired, but saves are saves, and if he’s indeed the guy in the ninth inning for the Royals, he’ll have some appeal in mixed leagues.

In return for Herrera, the Royals netted three prospects. Third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez looks to be the best of the bunch, and was ranked as the 10th best prospect in the Nationals’ organization prior to the season. The 23-year-old was enjoying a solid season at Double-A Harrisburg, slashing .274/.321/.391 with five homers, 26 RBI and 10 stolen bases. He isn’t far away from being big-league ready and could be the heir-apparent to Mike Moustakas at the hot corner.

The Royals also received speedy 21-year-old outfielder Blake Perkins. A second round pick of the Nationals in the 2015 draft, Perkins has struggled in his first exposure at High-A Potomac, hitting just .234/.344/.290 with one homer, 21 RBI and 12 stolen bases.

The third piece of the return package for the Royals was 17-year-old right-hander Yohanse Morel. He’s considered very raw, but owns an electric fastball that runs as high as 95 mph, with room to grow into more velocity. He also has a good feel for a power slider.

Overall, it’s a nice return package for the Royals, getting some talented prospects for a bullpen arm who was going to walk away for nothing at season’s end. Meanwhile, the Nationals get another dominant bullpen arm that they coveted and didn’t really have to give up any of their top prospects to do so. At least initially, this looks to be a mutually beneficial trade for both sides.

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Finding Nimmo

Mets’ outfielder Brandon Nimmo was born and raised in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The closest major league ballpark to his hometown is Coors Field in Colorado, just a two-hour drive away.. So naturally, with the Mets beginning a series in Colorado on Monday, Nimmo wanted to have his entourage in attendance.

Nimmo said that he had to buy 75 tickets for friends and family who wanted to see him play live in Colorado. The 25-year-old outfielder evidently wanted to put on a show.

Leading off the game, Nimmo smashed an electrifying drive off of the wall in right center field, hustling all the way around the bases for an inside-the-park home run. He blazed around the bases in just 14.70 seconds.

The one thing that Nimmo hasn’t done well this season, is hit left-handed pitching. Entering play on Monday, he had hit just .196/.327/.304 with one homer, one RBI and a 21/7 K/BB ratio over 55 plate appearances. So even though it didn’t leave the yard, it was mighty encouraging to see him hit that homer off of Rockies’ southpaw Tyler Anderson.

He wasn’t finished though. After going down on strikes in his second at-bat. Nimmo jumped on Anderson’s first pitch for a single in the fifth inning. He then victimized another left-hander, Harrison Musgrave, for a towering solo homer in the seventh that increased the Mets’ advantage to 4-1. That one was absolutely crushed, an estimated 449 feet which makes it the second longest home run of Nimmo’s career, and the second longest home run hit by any Mets’ hitter this season.

In his final at-bat of the evening, and his first against a right-hander, Nimmo delivered a two-run single as part of a six-run uprising in the ninth inning.

Nimmo finished the night 4-for-6 with a pair of runs scored and four RBI and is now slashing a robust .287/.410/.603 with 12 homers and 22 RBI on the season. Fantasy owners who bought in early on have been handsomely rewarded.

Astro-nomical Comeback

Riding an 11-game winning streak, the Astros trailed the Ray 4-0 through three innings on Monday. Like true champions though, they didn’t panic and went to work chipping away at that deficit.

They scratched out a pair of runs in the fourth inning on an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Josh Reddick. They trimmed that deficit to one run when Gurriel delivered another RBI single in the sixth inning.

Gerrit Cole settled in nicely after giving up four early runs, keeping the Rays off the board for the next four innings to keep his team in the ballgame. Still, they trailed 4-3 entering the ninth inning against Rays’ closer Sergio Romo.

As late-inning rallies so often do, it all started with a leadoff walk to Marwin Gonzalez, on four pitches no less. Max Stassi followed with a single, and Tony Kemp successfully sacrificed both runners into scoring position. George Springer then reached on catcher’s indifference, loading the bases for Alex Bregman.

The 24-year-old third baseman didn’t disappoint, lining a walk-off two-run double into the gap in left center to deliver the Astros their 12th consecutive victory. With the Mariners idle on Monday, the Astros pick up a ½ game on the M’s and now own a two-game edge in the American League West.

American League Quick Hits: According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, The Yankees and Mariners have each expressed interest in acquiring Blue Jays’ southpaw J.A. HappMelky Cabrera elected free agency rather than accepting an outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus. He’ll try to latch on elsewhere… Kevin Kiermaier (thumb) is on track to be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday… Brett Gardner sat out his second straight game on Monday with a sore right knee… The Indians signed veteran southpaw Mark Rzepczynski to a minor league contract… All tests on the right elbow of Carlos Carrasco came back negative… Avisail Garcia (hamstring) could rejoin the White Sox over the weekend… Bartolo Colon defeated the Royals on Monday, earning the 244th win of his illustrious career. With the win, he passed Juan Marichal for the most wins in major league history by a Dominican born hurler… Aaron Hicks homered for the second straight game as the Yankees beat the Nationals… Jason Kipnis went 3-for-4 with a homer as the Indians beat the White Sox... Aroldis Chapman secured his 21st save in a win over the Nats... 

National League Quick Hits: Clayton Kershaw (back) threw three innings in a simulated game on Monday. The left-hander said afterwards that he would next pitch in a game in five days, but the Dodgers have yet to make a determination if that will be on a minor league rehab assignment or with the big league club… Javier Baez (elbow) is expected to return to the Cubs’ lineup on Tuesday… The Phillies optioned struggling right-hander Hector Neris to Triple-A Lehigh Valley… Jeremy Hellickson (hamstring) will throw a simulated game on Tuesday, and if all goes well should return to the Nationals’ rotation over the weekend… Travis Shaw sat out Monday’s game with a sore right wrist… Wade Miley (oblique) will begin a minor league rehab assignment with Double-A Biloxi this week… Jay Bruce was scratched from the Mets’ starting lineup on Monday due to continued soreness in his hip… Walker Buehler (ribs) is expected to throw a bullpen session on Saturday at Citi Field… Nick Williams was removed from Tuesday’s game after a ball ricocheted off of the outfield fence and hit him in the face. He’s considered day-to-day… Trevor Williams allowed just one hit over seven shutout innings in a masterful victory over the Brewers… Juan Soto blasted a two-run homer, powering the Nationals to victory in the finale of the suspended game from May 15. Officially, it will go in the history books as his sixth home run of the season, but having occurred on May 15, which is five days before Soto actually made his big league debut… Aaron Altherr slugged a walk-off two-run double to complete a comeback victory against the Cardinals… Nick Pivetta racked up a career-best 13 strikeouts over 7 ⅓ innings in a no-decision against the Cardinals… Jacob deGrom struck out seven while allowing one earned run over eight innings in a victory over the Rockies at Coors Field… Paul Goldschmidt slugged his 15th home run as the Diamondbacks topped the Angels... The Marlins rallied for three runs off of Hunter Strickland in the ninth inning to secure a come-from-behind victory over the Giants.

David Shovein

Dave Shovein is a baseball writer for NBC Sports Edge. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveShovein.