Padres closer Kirby Yates has come up as a speculative trade candidate as Major League Baseball nears its July 31 deadline, but don’t count on the right-hander going anywhere. Yates is likely to stay a Padre “barring an unforeseen haul,” Dennis Lin of The Athletic reports (subscription link).
Yates would no doubt bring back a substantial return, something the Padres unsurprisingly would want for him. However, it’s debatable whether the Padres should seriously consider dealing him this month. At 42-41, they’re finally making real progress in the standings and have an actual chance to break a 12-year playoff drought this year. San Diego’s just a game and a half back of a wild-card spot in a crowded National League field, and a decent portion of its success has come on account of Yates.
General manager A.J. Preller has been something of a wizard when it comes to claiming relievers on waivers. He first grabbed Brad Hand from the Marlins in April 2016 and then landed Yates from the Angels in 2017. Hand turned into a stud for the Padres, though they were in the throes of a rebuild and weren’t able to take advantage of his brilliance in the win-loss column. The club flipped a post-breakout Hand to the Indians last June as part of a deal for young catcher Francisco Mejia, whom it hopes will be its long-term answer behind the plate.
Just as the Padres picked up a haul for Hand last year, they’re in position to hold out for a Godfather offer for Yates this season. The 32-year-old has mimicked Hand in going from castoff to star in a Padres uniform. While Yates was tremendous in 2018, he has been even better this season, having logged a ridiculous 1.27 ERA/1.33 FIP with 14.46 K/9, 2.29 BB/9 and a 46.3 percent groundball rate over 35 1/3 innings. Considering those numbers, it’s no surprise Yates has been close to automatic at the end of games. He leads the majors in saves (27) and has blown just one opportunity.
The Padres see the brilliant Yates as someone who could help them return to prominence this season and in the near future – at an affordable price, no less. He’s making a little over $3MM this year and comes with another season of arbitration eligibility. At the same time, though, Yates’ age, lack of long-term control and the volatility of relievers are all reasons for the Padres to consider cashing him in over the next few months. It could be an agonizing decision for Preller.