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Putting Together a Brad Keller Trade Package With the Nationals

The Nationals aren't nearly what they used to be, but perhaps they have a couple of pieces for the Royals to be interested in.

Welcome back to the 29 trades in 29 days series. Every day, I will be taking a look at a new MLB team in an effort to find a trade package that makes sense for the Kansas City Royals to hypothetically pursue. For some ground rules and an example, check out the first installment of the series. Today, let's continue our run with the National League East as I examine a possible trade involving the Washington Nationals.

Even though the Royals never made it back to the postseason with the group that won the 2015 World Series, at least the group remained semi-competitive for the following two seasons before the club ultimately had to blow it up. For the Nationals, it’s so weird to think about how this was a team loaded with All-Star-caliber players in 2019 — Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Max Scherzer, and Juan Soto — but next year, Soto will be the only player remaining from that group.

The Nationals blew it up this year, trading anything of value to anybody interested with the big names departing at the deadline being Turner and Scherzer to the Dodgers. The Nationals can spend money to get themselves out of this rebuild faster, but trading a young piece like Turner and the league’s best pitcher in Scherzer makes me think they’re going to approach this rebuild with more patience.

As they should. They got their ring and Soto isn’t going anywhere for now. The problem is that when a team has a blowout sale like the Nationals had this year, there’s not going to be a whole lot of worth trading for left. But lying around in the clearance bin, there might be a few promising (yet unproven) players that could help the Royals' depth that the Nationals would be willing to let go for some magic beans.

The Trade:

Washington Nationals Receive: RHP Brad Keller, LHP Daniel Tillo, RHP Charlie Neuweiler

Kansas City Royals Receive: LHP Josh Rogers and OF Lane Thomas

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It’s interesting putting a trade together in which Brad Keller is the most proven player that is being exchanged. For the Royals, they are getting promising yet unproven players that have played in the majors compared to the Nationals, who are getting a veteran pitcher in Keller and a couple of prospects that can add on to a rebuilding farm system.

Neuweiler projects as a back-of-the-rotation type of guy that relies on a four-pitch mix with a fastball, changeup, slider and curveball. He has a tremendous mound presence but isn't someone who has putaway stuff. Essentially, Neuweiler is someone who falls into the Tim Hudson role of pitching to contact and letting the defense work behind him. The real question is whether or not he will develop the consistent command necessary to become this type of player.

Tillo probably projects more as a power bullpen guy, possessing a classic drop-and-drive type of delivery that helps generate a fastball that can reach up to 98 mph, but usually sit in the mid-90s. Tillo offers a slider that serves as his secondary pitch with a 2-8 break, but he needs to work on consistently staying on top of the pitch. He also possesses a changeup that is more of the show-me variety: it’s there but should it needs to be a pitch that he throws less than 5% of the time. Fastball-slider relievers are becoming the new trend in baseball, as the Braves rode the fastball-slider mix of Will Smith to a World Series title.

As far as Keller is concerned, he’s had a couple of good years mixed with a couple of bad years. While his 4.01 career ERA is not terrible by comparison to the rest of the Royals pitching staff, his future as a starter most likely lies outside of Kansas City. The one thing that did Keller in this year was his dreadful start to the season, putting up an ERA of 9.00 in April through five starts. The up and down roller coaster ride would continue, as he had an ERA of 3.86 in May followed up by a dismal 8.31 ERA in June and a Cy Young caliber 2.28 ERA in July. He then closed it out with a 4.68 ERA in August. Keller has it in him to be a good middle-of-the-rotation type of guy, the problem is that the Royals have a wave of younger players that can all do what Brad Keller does.

In exchange for these three pitchers, one of the players the Royals are getting back is an outfielder in Thomas, who showed a bit of promise for the Nationals in 45 games after being traded by the St. Louis Cardinals. In those contests, he batted .270 for the Nats with an OPS of .853 while driving in 27 runs and hitting seven long balls. His past few seasons in the minors also back up this progression, as he had an OPS of above .800 in 2021, 2019, and 2018. Outfield depth is always nice and Thomas is would be more likely to make an impact for the Royals sooner than someone like the newly elected free agent, Jeison Guzman.

The other player the Royals would be getting back is a left-hand starter in Rogers who, after doing nothing with the Baltimore Orioles in eight career outings, managed a solid six-game stint with the Nationals as a starter. In those starts, Rogers put up a 3.28 ERA. He was actually part of the trade that sent Zach Britton from the New York Yankees to the Orioles, so he’s been around the block since 2015, has already undergone Tommy John surgery and has looked fine ever since. Rogers offers a low-90s fastball, a slider and a changeup. The skill set comparison of Rogers would be to someone like Chris Young: a pitcher that doesn’t have elite putaway stuff but knows how to get hitters out anyway.

This trade is all about exchanging those darned magic beans. Here, the Royals would get more magic beans to possibly help them now in exchange for giving the Nationals some magic beans that could help them win later and a pitcher the Royals may not have a use for soon.

Read More: Salvador Perez Was Otherworldly Good in 2021, but Can He Sustain It?