Now that the dust has settled and time has tempered the emotions of the Royals faithful, I want to look back at the only significant trade the Royals have made so far this season, sending Kelvin Herrera to Washington for Kelvin Gutierrez, Blake Perkins, and Yohanse Morel.
In the month since the trade went down, consensus has shifted a bit, at least on the prospects the Royals received. Initially, many commentators felt that Gutierrez was the centerpiece of the deal, but after a month of watching him struggle and Perkins get hot, many are wondering if Perkins won’t ultimately be the prize of this trade.
Since joining the Royals organization, Gutierrez is slashing a very disappointing .213/.253/.320 with a 3.8 percent walk rate and a 19 percent strikeout rate. As bad as the numbers look, a chance to see Gutierrez play hasn’t inspired much hope either. In a recent group chat with the rest of the RFR crew, I compared his swing to a baby giraffe walking on ice. It’s like he’s made up entirely of arms and legs. All these issues make the fact that Gutierrez is 23 years old (24 in a couple of months) and struggling mightily at AA even more alarming. He’s getting into the age where prospects are given up on, and he still has a long way to go offensively.
Perkins on the other hand has put up a very respectable .274/.396/.369 line with a 14.4 percent walk rate, 20.2 percent strikeout rate, and six stolen bases in 22 games. Already rated an above average center fielder, Perkins looks like he might be turning a corner with the bat. His on-base ability is a serious asset, and four of his last six have been multi-hit games. He’ll never have the power potential many thought Gutierrez might possess, but if he can be a rangy outfielder with on-base ability, that’s enough to be a useful piece on a contending team.
Some speculated that Morel, a 17-year-old pitcher with virtually no professional innings pitched, may end up being the hidden gem of this bunch. It’s clear that Morel was the lottery ticket, a high-upside long shot to dream on. So far, there’s plenty to like. At just 17, Morel has made four appearances (three starts) in the Arizona League. In 16.2 innings, he has a 3.78 ERA, 16 strikeouts, three walks, and a .96 WHIP. Opponents are hitting just .213 against him. He’s very young even for that league so if he can even hold his own, that’s impressive for someone his age. It’ll be years before anyone has a good sense of what Morel might be, but so far, there aren’t any alarm bells. And the fact that he can strikeout more mature hitters is a good sign.
Of course, in order to understand this trade, we must also look at what the Royals gave up: Herrera. Things haven’t been so hot for Herrera since leaving Kansas City. In 11 appearances (10.2 innings), he’s rocking a 4.22 ERA and a 6.89 FIP. He’s walked six batters and opponents are hitting .273/.373/.500 against him. Some of this is simple regression. Herrera was on fire when pitching for the Royals this season and was bound to swing back. But a Dayton Moore disciple could also see this as evidence of his prophetic powers. He traded Herrera just before he started struggling. It wouldn’t have mattered at all for the Royals if Herrera pitched well or poorly, they’d be terrible no matter what. But in an odd way it makes the trade look better if Herrera isn’t mowing down hitters.
It’ll be interesting to track Gutierrez, Perkins, and Morel for the next few years. In the immediate aftermath of the trade, most felt the return for Herrera was light, and maybe it was if we look at it in comparison to the trades of other high profile relievers. But with Perkins coming on and Herrera struggling, this trade looks a little better to my eyes today than it did a month ago. If Perkins or Morel turns into a major league regular (I’m very low on Gutierrez ever making it), I’ll see this trade as a low-key win. Nothing huge, but a solid move that might push the needle slightly in the right direction moving forward. But we aren’t there yet.
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