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Nationals reportedly interested in Kelvin Herrera

Let the rumors begin.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Kansas City Royals Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Nationals are interested in Royals closer Kelvin Herrera, according to Fox Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal, although he does not indicate the Royals are ready to deal quite yet. Fanrag reporter Jon Heyman reported earlier this week the Royals have been “very, very quiet so far.”

Rosenthal writes the Nationals “certainly have the position prospects to get the reliever they want, including outfielders Rafael Bautista, Juan Soto, and Andrew Stevenson,” noting they are also deep in catchers and shortstops, although the Royals seemingly do not have as much of a need at those positions with Salvador Perez and Raul Mondesi. The Nationals may also have a need for Lorenzo Cain, following the news today that Adam Eaton will miss the rest of the season with an ACL injury.

Soto was ranked as the #3 prospect in the Nationals’ system by John Sickels as a “B” prospect. The 18-year old is only in low A ball, but has already shown tremendous hitting ability, with a line of .366/.424/.545 in 72 pro games. Stevenson was a second-round pick in 2015 out of LSU and has the speed and defense the Royals typically covet. The 22-year old left-handed hitter is more polished than Soto, but with perhaps less upside, and is already hitting .361/.439/.458 in AA Harrisburg. Bautista is a speedster in AAA who is further behind with the bat. He swiped 56 bases last year, but shows little power and below-average plate discipline.

The Nationals also have top prospect Victor Robles, ranked the #13 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America. He already shows good speed and excellent defense with decent hitting numbers and is young enough to develop more power. The Royals would probably have to package Herrera and Cain together to have a chance at Robles. Erick Fedde, a right-handed pitcher ranked #52 by Baseball America, could also interest the Royals as a starting pitcher close to MLB-ready.

Kelvin Herrera is not eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season. However, with over a year left of club control, he could fetch quite a haul considering the market for relievers. The 27-year old right-hander has a 2.25 ERA in eight innings this year, and has a 2.29 ERA with nearly a strikeout-per-inning over the last four seasons combined.

Herrera does not have a long track record as a closer, taking over duties last year when Wade Davis landed on the disabled list. He converted 12 of 15 save opportunities last year, and three out of four opportunities this season. The Nationals have had question marks around the closer’s job all year after failing to land a top reliever this past winter. Blake Treinen has already lost the closer’s role and Shawn Kelley and rookie Koda Glover have had inconsistent results.

Rosenthal also thinks Cain and Mike Moustakas could interest the Mets, with Juan Lagares being a light-hitter in centerfield and David Wright out at third base. The Mets are struggling, however, off to a 9-13 start thanks to a number of key injuries.