No one knows who will manage the Padres in 2020, but that individual is in line to inherit one of baseball’s elite closers. The late-blooming Kirby Yates went on an unexpected tear in 2018 and has been even better this season, his age-32 campaign, with a stunning 1.19 ERA/1.31 FIP and 14.98 K/9 against 1.93 BB/9 against 60 2/3 innings. Considering those numbers, it’s no surprise Yates has been almost automatic in save situations, having converted a major league-leading 41 of 44 opportunities.
The utter dominance Yates has exhibited since San Diego claimed him off waivers from the Angels in 2017 has been enough to convince the Padres that they should keep him around for the long haul. The Padres “have begun discussing a contract” with the right-hander’s representatives at Beverly Hills Sports Council, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. It’s unclear whether the sides have made progress in the early stages of their talks, but Yates made it known to Acee that he’s prioritizing his family, the team’s chances of winning and how he’s “going to be valued” as he looks ahead.
“As you get older, you start realizing that if you want to win a World Series you’re running out of time to do it,” said Yates. “I’m going to be 33 years old next year. I want to win a World Series. I’ve never been in a playoff run. I’ve never been in a game in September when games matter going down the stretch being a guy you rely on to make the playoff push. That’s very important to me.”
At 70-86, the Padres have already clinched their ninth straight sub-.500 season and their 13th consecutive year without a playoff berth. With those damning results in mind, no one would blame a championship-oriented player for being reluctant to sign an extension with the club. However, the Padres have enough young talent that they could perhaps be an offseason away from pushing for relevance (that’s likely their front office’s hope at, least). And Yates may have difficulty passing on a sizable multiyear guarantee if one is presented. After all, as Acee points out, he hasn’t been in position to sign a big contract to this point. Yates entered the professional ranks as a 26th-round pick almost a decade and a half ago, going to the Red Sox in 2005, and bounced around a few other organizations before coming into his own in San Diego.
If general manager A.J. Preller doesn’t succeed in locking up Yates, he’ll be on track to play out his final season of arbitration control in 2020. Yates has earned a career-high $3,062,500 salary this year, and with saves being such an important factor in arbitration, his 2019 performance ought to help him to a notable raise if he goes through the process again.