Kelvin Herrera to the Nationals—in June!

The latest edition of Penning Bull hit subscribers’ inboxes late Tuesday night. It’s about the early start to the serious trading period that was the Nationals’ deal for Royals closer Kelvin Herrera. Here’s an excerpt:

In cases like those of the Nationals and Royals, though, decision time can come earlier, and there are more and more cases like those of the Nationals and Royals. No one really wants to win the Wild Card anymore; that’s strictly a consolation prize for the losers of particularly noble division races. With so many teams taking all-or-nothing approaches to contention, though, there are ample incentives for early moves. In that way, the two-Wild Card system has successfully brought us back to the way things were in, for instance, 1985, when it wasn’t good enough to be good. Every good team can count on having two or three teams competing with them for just one desirable playoff spot, so teams aim for 93 or 94 wins, instead of 87 or 88. That means that teams whose best-case scenario finds them grabbing a Wild Card berth are basically out on premium trade candidate, and it makes it more worth the while of very good teams to improve sooner, thereby improving more.

For Washington, making this particular improvement at such an early date might be particularly crucial. Firstly, the Braves are no fluke, and in fact, have a higher third-order winning percentage than have the Nationals so far. Secondly, with Stephen Strasburg joining the already long list of injured Nationals recently, one can fairly expect an added toll on the bullpen over the coming weeks. Having the kind of depth Dave Martinez now enjoys in the relief corps makes distributing high-leverage innings much easier, and gives Herrera, Doolittle, Madson, and the rest of the Washington bullpen a better chance of reaching October relatively fresh and ready to dominate.

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