Updates on Kirby Yates and the MLB Relief Pitching Market

(Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Dodgers have spent this offseason fortifying their bullpen, acquiring guys like Corey Knebel, Tommy Kahnle, and Garrett Cleavinger, while also re-signing Blake Treinen and Scott Alexander.

Pedro Baez signed with the Houston Astros a couple of days ago as well. That is yet another realization that the bullpen will look a bit different this year compared to last year.

With Liam Hendriks signing with the Chicago White Sox, the bullpen market is starting to fall into place, and the next dominoes to drop will presumably be guys like Brad Hand and Kirby Yates.

It is not clear if Hand is close to agreeing to terms with a team, but if recent reporting is accurate, Yates appears to be close to choosing a destination.

A crucial detail amongst this buzz is that as things currently stand, it seems unlikely that Yates will be returning to the San Diego Padres.

Kevin Acee of the San Diego-Union Tribune reports that Yates is in the final stages of choosing between five teams, and the Padres are not one of them. The offer the Padres gave him doesn’t seem to match up with other offers he received around the league.

That’s a key development because it evokes speculation of whether the Padres offer was relatively underwhelming compared to other teams based on length, AAV, or both.

Acee has previously reported that Yates was looking for a deal worth over $5 million in guaranteed money, plus performance incentives.

That figure matches what MLB Trade Rumors projected Yates would ultimately be signed for, as the site predicted Yates would get a one-year, $5 million contract.

Given that the Padres have seemingly come up short compared to what other teams are offering, it’ll be interesting to learn if any team is going multiple years for Yates.

When healthy, Yates is one of the most dominant relief pitchers in all of baseball. His low market value is purely the result of undergoing elbow surgery last August.

I’ve previously written about how Yates has better stats than Hendriks in his most recent seasons not interrupted by injury.

Hendriks used his stellar 2019 and 2020 seasons to secure a three-year deal with the White Sox for $54 million.

Yates had a lower combined ERA in his 2018 and 2019 seasons than Hendriks accumulated in his 2019 and 2020 seasons. Over those same spans, Yates had just a slightly higher WHIP than Hendriks, and more strikeouts per nine innings.

Yates is two years older than Hendriks, but it’s fair to wonder what type of deal Yates would have gotten this offseason if not for that surgery.

Hendriks got $18 million AAV. The current market projections for Yates seem like an absolute steal for the team that eventually acquires him.

He might not ultimately be the same guy post-surgery, but the upside involved in getting Yates at around $5 million AAV, even if it’s for more than one year, is enticing.

The context clues found within recent reports indicate that the Dodgers are currently one of those five finalists to acquire Yates.

John Heyman of MLB Network reports that the Dodgers are still interested in adding bullpen pieces, and Yates is one of the possibilities.

The final contract figures that Yates signs for will be a fascinating revelation from what’s been a unique free agency period.

It’s also important to note in all this that MLB Trade Rumors projected Hendriks at three years for $30 million and that AAV projection was off, so the final Yates figures could be higher than projected as well.

The Hendriks deal was for much more AAV than expected. The Padres offer to Yates is also reportedly falling short of what other teams are offering. Those two developments reveal that Yates has a good chance of ending up with more than that one-year, $5 million contract projection.

11 thoughts on “Updates on Kirby Yates and the MLB Relief Pitching Market

  1. The way I look at Hendriks’ contract, it’s 54 mil over 4 years. I’m not sure how they calculate salary for the tax threshold but to me he’s getting an average yearly salary of 13.5 mil. Whatever the case, poor Mr. Yates who would have gotten probably just as good a deal before his surgery will now have to settle for one or two years at far less money. Hopefully it’s with us. We could use him.

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    1. I still find it baffling that nobody took Hand for just one year at $10 million. Sounds like a deal Friedman would have jumped on when he had room under the cap. I guess he sees Treinen as more of a workhorse.

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      1. Maybe Andrew was concerned with the reduced velo numbers, but he was still very effective.
        Someone will certainly be giving him two years now and I don’t think it will be us. I’d like to see us get Yates who might be available on a one year deal.

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  2. Stop playing games with marginal relief pieces and go get Arenado. His defense will make the whole pitching staff look better.

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    1. Unfortunately, in this era of launch angles, etc., if you don’t have good pitching the ball won’t be within Arenado’s reach.

      Pitching has always been the most important factor in winning championships, and with Roberts in charge, a deep bullpen is a necessity. Yates or Hand both have had complete shutdown capabilities in the past and could possibly be snagged at bargain basement prices. We want the Dodgers to be playing that “game”.

      Arenado for Price, Jansen and good stuff would bring Arenado’s AAV down to about $24M for the next six years ($195M, less $32M (Price) and $20M (Jansen), divided by six). Depending on what “good stuff” the Dodgers would have to give up, it could be a total Dodger steal, even considering Arenado’s away from Colorado statistics. Dodgers would be acquiring him 2021 luxury tax neutral. There would probably be a fan rebellion in Colorado if the Rockies did this right now, maybe later in the season if they stink and are hurting for money, but not now. In my opinion.

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  3. How many more? Right now we have at least 16 major league pitchers on the 40 man. Do they not trust young guys like Graterol and Gonzalez? Are they going to push them along with Gonsolin and May back to AAA or are they working on a major trade where young arms get included? Wondering what the strategy is?

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    1. One more at most. Actually, Dodgers have 24 pitchers on the 40 man roster. But two are probably out for 2021, a few more are probably not valued that high and several more probably have minimal positive trade value. Always got to be looking to improve.

      I think they DO trust Graterol and Gonzalez, I remember seeing them both pitch at critical moments in the playoffs last year. I think Graterol, Gonzalez, Gonsolin and May with their Pre Arb salaries are all here to stay. The strategy? I believe to “get better while staying under/or slightly over the luxury tax threshold”.

      More important question is the 26 man roster, if Dodgers go 13 pitchers this is how I see what we have right now.

      Buehler
      Kershaw
      Price
      May
      Urias
      Gonsolin

      Jansen
      Kelly
      Knebel
      Treinen
      Gonzalez
      Graterol
      Alexander

      So, we are probably pretty set for 2021, but if possible, I’d think Friedman would love to move Price, Jansen or Kelly if he could in the right deal. Additionally, Alexander is probably expendable if a cheap upgrade becomes available, he’s probably got positive trade value and I believe he even has another minor league option available.

      Bottom line, Friedman has got to keep listening in on available pitchers.

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      1. Although it would be a mistake to count on them this season, I think there is a very good chance that either Morrow or Nelson will be very productive.
        I know that front offices tend to be rather unemotional and Andrew certainly seems to make decisions based on non-emotional factors, but do you really think he would do that to Kenley? I could see him trying to trade him, but I think he might have a hard time sending him to Denver where he has had all those medical problems in past years. Also a reason why the Rox would never take him in a trade unless they had a way to immediately move him to another team.

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      2. Morrow, Nelson and also Kolarek, Floro and even Sborz could all help in 2021. Another Friedman strength is expanding the roster by using the DL.

        Good point, about Jansen to Denver. Andrew maybe “rather unemotional” but when I put my MLB GM Hat on, emotion is out the door. I was all in on that 5yr $80M contract prior to 2017 and he let me down.

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