Closing Time: Kelvin Herrera traded out of fantasy value

Kelvin Herrera was traded Monday, but no umpires changed teams (AP)
Kelvin Herrera was traded Monday, but no umpires changed teams (AP)

Not every baseball trade turns into a zero-sum game for our purposes. The Nationals and Royals made a swap Monday and all it offered fantasy owners was a headache. No winners here.

Kelvin Herrera moves from Kansas City to Washington (the Royals scored three prospects), and with that his fantasy value takes a seismic hit. Herrera has been a terrific closer for the Royals this year (2.05 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 14 saves), but he’s not going to be the chairman in DC. The Nats already made it clear — Sean Doolittle (himself having a knockout year) is the closer, with Herrera the next guy in line. Fantasy owners might hold Herrera for the ratios anyway, but you’re going to lose the handshakes, unless Doolittle hits a major slump or gets hurt.

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The Royals are one of baseball’s worst teams, at 22-50, but if they can find a dedicated closer, he would hold some value for us. Unfortunately, there isn’t an obvious candidate. Those in deep leagues went scavenger hunting Monday, but there isn’t much to find in this bullpen.

Kevin McCarthy was probably the best guess in a weak lot, since he’s been the main set-up guy. A 1.12 WHIP is good, a 3.86 ERA not so good. He’s only struck out 19 men in 30.1 innings. He might be able to pitch to contact and get away with it. His best skill is his heavy ground-ball tilt.

Brandon Maurer was a mediocre closer in San Diego for a few years, carrying a career ERA over five. He’s been terrible in 5.1 innings this year (10 H, 8 R, 4 HR, 3 BB, 5 K). I’m not tossing a coin into that fountain.

Tim Hill at least strikes people out. The 28-year-old rookie has 23 whiffs over 21.2 innings, though he’s also walked eight men. His ERA is just under five, his WHIP a bloated 1.38. He’s also left-handed, which sometimes keeps a pitcher away from a dedicated ninth-inning job.

If you need to gamble on the few saves the Royals might produce, McCarthy is my guess. But I don’t blame anyone who prefers to avoid this situation completely.

• The only surprising thing about Brandon Nimmo is that we have to keep discussing him as a fantasy-add topic. He’s been such a terrific player for the Mets, he should have cruised well past the 50-percent threshold a while ago. Alas, he sat around 50 percent on the eve of the four-game Colorado series, and it took a monster game Monday (four hits, two homers — one a standing-up, inside-the-park special), to push a few people to the transaction they should have made weeks ago.

Nimmo has always been a pedigree player. He was the 13th overall pick in the 2011 draft, and he showed up on all three scouting clipboards before the 2015 season. The Mets didn’t see him as a primary outfielder when the season started, but he’s forced his way into 60 games, with dynamite results: .287/.401/.603, 12 homers, seven steals. He’s scored 35 runs. Over the last month, he’s hit .299, clocked 10 homers, stolen five bases, scored 20 runs. Only Mike Trout and Andrew Benintendi have more outfield fantasy value over that period.

Some will worry about gridlock later in the season, if and when the Mets get everyone healthy. But Nimmo has probably played too well to lose his spot in line. He also needs to show better results against lefties, not than an .801 OPS is reason for shame. He’s a monster against the righties (.309/.433/.667), and it’s a right-handed world.

If I were entering a redraft, I’d look at Nimmo around the fourth round. And I’m not sure that would be enough to get him. The Mets haven’t had many bright spots other than Jacob deGrom this year, but Nimmo’s been the star of the offense. I expect this to be a full-season story.

Not all fantasy sources are eager to buy into Nimmo. I’ve seen him ranked below Denard Span and Dexter Fowler on a few pages (offer Fowler for Nimmo and see how the other guy responds; better yet, just drop Fowler, please). Steamer says he’ll slash .237/.336/.394 the rest of the way. It’s important to realize some sources are going to be slow to buy a breakout. Wait for proof was the way everyone played fantasy baseball in the dark ages, but it’s not how you win a competitive mixed league today. Be better than that. I know most of you are, already.

• Are we back in on Pablo Sandoval? Can we at least have the conversation? Panda has a .271/.340/.457 slash, with an OPS+ of 118 and a wRC+ of 120. Both of those stats set 100 for league average; it’s just a new-agey way to say Sandoval has been, for his 144 at-bats, about 20 percent better than a league-average player.

Sandoval is ostensibly the current starter at third base, with Evan Longoria (busted hand) on the shelf. Panda has a .286/.364/.571 slash in June, with four homers in 49 at-bats. He’s striking out a quarter of the time, but his walk rate is almost to 10 percent. He’s eligible at both corner spots. I’m interested again. The Panda is owned in just three percent of Yahoo leagues.

• It’s been a dreadful year for fantasy catchers, especially if your league requires two starters. John Hicks was the lead to Dalton Del Don’s most recent pickups column, for good reason. Most fantasy owners will feel the backstop pinch, sooner or later.

With that established, we need to have a Tom Murphy chat.

Murphy is getting a chance to take the Colorado gig and run with it. He’s started six of the last seven games. Not a lot has come from it (6-for-23, two doubles), but any Coors Field regular is worth a kick of the tires. Murphy had a .289/.359/.642 slash at Triple-A, with 16 homers in 49 games.

The ownership tag is just five percent, so there’s time to get in. Chris Iannetta (.233, five homers) wasn’t doing much for the Rockies. Perhaps Murphy is ready to blossom at age 27.

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