1:36PM: It doesn’t seem like the Blue Jays are one of the finalists for Yates, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Jays “aren’t considered frontrunners” for the righty, though Toronto had “real interest.”
10:12AM: Former Padres closer Kirby Yates may be nearing a new contract, as the right-hander is “in final stages of considering offers from five teams,” according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune (Twitter link). Yates has whittled his market down to these five finalists from a reported 12 teams that showed interest in the former All-Star. Most notably, the Padres aren’t one of the finalists, as Acee writes that the club would have to “substantially” increase their current offer to bring Yates back into the fold.
That stint in San Diego saw Yates develop from being something of a journeyman reliever in his age-30 season into a legitimate weapon. Yates posted a 2.55 ERA and an exceptional 38.44 K% and 31.2 K-BB% over 183 2/3 innings with the Padres after being claimed off waivers from the Angels in April 2017. Yates emerged as the Padres’ closer after the Friars dealt Brad Hand in 2018, and he proceeded to convert 53 of 57 save opportunities over the 2018-19 seasons. Between a league-high 41 saves and a tiny 1.19 ERA over 60 2/3 innings in 2019, Yates received a ninth-place finish in NL Cy Young Award balloting.
2020, however, was a much different story, as Yates pitched only 4 1/3 innings before undergoing a season-ending surgery in August to remove bone chips from his elbow. The Padres and their fans must surely wonder what might have been if the 2019 version of Yates had been available to contribute to their postseason run, and while there was some interest in a reunion between the two sides, it seems as though Yates will be moving on.
A few weeks ago, Acee reported that Yates was looking for a deal in the range of over $5MM in guaranteed money, plus millions more in potential incentives. (MLBTR projected a $5MM contract for Yates, ranking him 42nd in our list of the offseason’s top 50 free agents.) Even considering the slow-moving nature of the relief pitching market, that would seem like a pretty reasonable price for Yates, given the possible upside he could bring to any bullpen.
There hasn’t been much public buzz about Yates on the free agent rumor mill — besides the Padres, the Dodgers are the only other team known to have interest in Yates’ services. The Dodgers have addressed their bullpen by re-signing Blake Treinen and acquiring Corey Knebel, but there would certainly still be room for L.A. to also add Yates to the relief corps if they are one of Yates’ five finalists.