Should the San Diego Padres bring former closer Kirby Yates, back in 2021?
San Diego’s former MLB All-Star closer Kirby Yates may have thrown his final pitch as a member of the Padres.
Yates is due to become a free agent when the offseason officially starts later this week.
The right-handed reliever reconstructed his career when he arrived in San Diego off the waiver claim in 2017.
After the Padres dealt closer Brad Hand, Yates slid into the closer role and took off immediately. In 2019, he represented the Padres in the Allstar game, led the league in saves with 41, and had All-MLB First Team honors.
“Last year I set out a goal that I was tired of not being good. I was like, ‘I’m going to make an All-Star team, just for myself.'”#Padres closer Kirby Yates bet on himself after he was cast aside a few years ago, and it led to an All-Star nod: pic.twitter.com/gVmtS507KA
— Annie Heilbrunn (@annieheilbrunn) July 1, 2019
An example of how #Padres closer Kirby Yates was so dominant in 2019. His four-seamer>splitter tunneled almost perfectly to freeze the hitter.
We don’t see the tunnel but the BP Tool chart shows the hitter does.
14.6 PlatePreRatio pic.twitter.com/yghxEdhzyt
— Augustine Visuals (@AugustineMLB) November 29, 2019
The year 2020 did not treat many people well, including Yates. Just a few games into the shortened season, Yates needed to be removed after throwing just six pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks in August.
The former All-Star threw just 4.1 innings on the year before missing the rest of the season with an elbow injury.
Most signs lean toward Yates testing the market, as the Padres have shifted concern on resigning closer Trevor Rosenthal. If Rosenthal does indeed return to the Padres, he would be the Opening Day closer. Even so, that does not mean the Padres can’t bring Yates back as a member of the bullpen. In fact, it could be of interest for Yates to return and help this up-and-coming pitching staff.
- Low risk — high reward. Yates can be brought back on a one-year deal, possibly including a team option.
- Depth is needed. Bullpen depth has proven to be critical. The more dominant arms you have ready, the less pressure pitchers have. That would help Yates not have to deal with the heavy load he is accustomed to.
- Perfection at Petco. Yates performs his best at home in San Diego. ERA splits at home in three seasons: 1.67 (2017), 1.50 (2018), 1.02 (2019).
- Prime. Before the season-ending elbow surgery, he was in the prime of his career.
- Loved by the organization and fan base. Yates brings a high-energy presence when around the team and is loved by every player and coach. Yates has proven to be loyal to the fan base.
- Injury concerns. Yates is coming off of the worst injury of his career.
- Age. Yates is 33 years old, and who knows how long his prime will last.
- Crowded bullpen. The Padres have one of the top bullpens in baseball. Yates has always been a part of it, but with all the trades General Manager AJ Preller pulled off this season, over 20 pitchers are competing for a bullpen spot.
- Adjusting to a new role. This wouldn’t be the first time Yates would switch roles, but he has been the closer the past two seasons.
Just like in 2020, next year will bring many surprises. Before this season started, it was almost a given that the Padres would resign their Allstar closer for the 2021 season. But through many obstacles and a revamp of the team, the 2021 Padres will look a bit different.
Yates was the face of the Padres’ bullpen for the last three seasons, and there is little doubt he can continue that dominance in the future. The last remaining question asks if he will be doing it in the Padres brown and yellow or as a different organization member.