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Should the Padres trade Kirby Yates?

Yates is having a great season ... so what does that mean?

San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

The trade rumors are heating up, and there’s a lot of focus on where pitchers go. Could both Madison Bumgarner and Marcus Stroman be traded? Where does Will Smith get dealt? Is Noah Syndergaard on the move?

Will Kirby Yates be traded?

That’s a tough question to answer.

With less than three weeks until the trade deadline, the Padres need to decide if they are buying or selling, and then determine who they should trade (and what their asking price should be).

At first glance, it would appear the Padres should keep Yates. Arguably one of the best closers in baseball, the 32-year-old Yates has appeared in 38 games this season, picking up a league-leading 30 saves in 31 opportunities. Additionally, his 1.15 ERA leads the entire National League (minimum ten appearances). He has allowed just 22 hits and nine walks in 39 innings for a 0.79 WHIP. He’s allowed seven runs — only five of which were earned — over those 22 hits — only one of which was a home run. His 60 strikeouts also puts him on pace to shatter his career record of 90.

While this is certainly enticing for other teams in the market for a closer, it’s worth noting that he may be at his best — he has yet to come close to a season this good in his entire career.

Here are some of the top relievers who were traded in late July or early August 2018, and how they have fared in 2019. (Spoiler alert: most of them have struggled in 2019 after posting impressive 2018 efforts.)

Ryan Madson

Last August, Madson was traded from the Nationals to the Dodgers for pitcher Andrew Istler. At that point, he had a 5.28 ERA, allowing 28 runs on 48 hits in 44.1 innings over 49 relief appearances. With the Dodgers, he allowed six runs on 10 hits in 8.1 innings over nine relief appearances, picking up a 6.48 ERA with them and raising his season ERA to 5.47. Madson hit free agency at the end of the 2018 season and became a free agent; he remains unemployed, having not signed a contract since.

Xavier Cedeño

Last August, Cedeño was traded from the White Sox to the Brewers in exchange for outfielder Bryan Connell and pitcher Johan Dominguez. At the time, he had a 2.84 ERA in 33 appearances, allowing nine runs on 19 hits in 25.1 innings. He improved those already-solid numbers with Milwaukee, posting a 1.13 ERA in 15 games with the Brewers by allowing one run on seven hits in just eight innings. His 2019, however, has not gone as well: after latching on with the Cubs, he appeared in just five big-league games, pitching two scoreless innings before suffering an injury that his kept him out since late March.

Brad Ziegler

On the day of the 2018 trade deadline, Ziegler was traded by the Marlins to the Diamondbacks for minor-league pitcher Tommy Eveld. Ziegler pitched in 53 games with Miami, allowing 25 runs on 49 hits in 52 innings, picking up a 1-5 record and a 3.98 ERA. With Arizona, he went 1-1 with a 3.74 ERA, allowing nine runs on 22 hits in 21.2 innings. Ziegler announced his retirement following the 2018 season.

Aaron Loup

The Blue Jays traded Loup to Phillies for right-hander Jacob Waguespack at the end of July 2018. Loup, who had picked up a 4.54 ERA with Toronto by allowing 21 runs on 44 hits in 35.2 innings over 50 games, did not spend much time in Philadelphia, pitching in just nine games due to injury. With the Phillies, he allowed two runs on four hits in four innings, posting a 4.50 ERA. Loup’s 2019 has been injury-riddled, too. The now-Padres hurler pitched just 3.1 innings this season and has been sidelined since April 8 with an arm injury.

Brandon Kintzler

After four negative examples, here’s what some might call an oddball. Kintzler was dealt to the Cubs from the Nationals in exchange for Jhon Romero. After posting a 3.59 ERA in 45 games with the Nats in 2018, allowing 17 runs on 40 hits in 47.2 innings, he struggled out of the gate with the Cubs, posting a 7.00 ERA in 25 games and allowing 14 runs on 27 hits in 18 innings. However, with the Cubs this season, Kintzler has improved his ERA to an impressive 1.98 while allowing eight runs on 21 hits in 36.1 innings over 37 games.

Darren O’Day

O’Day was traded along with starter Kevin Gausman in a big deal that brought them from the Orioles to the Braves and in return sent pitchers Bruce Zimmerman and Evan Phillips, infielder Jean Carlos Encarnacion, catcher Brett Cumberland, and international bonus slot money to a disassembled Orioles organization. With Baltimore, O’Day had a 3.60 ERA in 20 games and 20 innings, allowing nine runs on twice as many hits. Plagued by a hamstring injury, O’Day missed a month with the Orioles and the rest of the season with the Braves. He hasn’t pitched in 2019, either, as a forearm strain has held him out of action since March. He has yet to don a Braves uniform in a game, and we are nearly a year removed from the trade.

Jake Diekman

The Rangers dealt Diekman to the Diamondbacks for pitchers Wei-Chieh Huang and Joshua Javier. With Texas, Diekman was 1-1 with a 3.69 ERA, allowing 18 runs on 31 hits in 39 innings in 47 appearances. He struggled with Arizona, picking up an 0-1 record and 7.53 ERA and allowing 15 runs on 18 hits in just 14.1 innings over 24 outings. He hit free agency at the end of the season and signed with Kansas City where he has since struggled, going 0-6 in 42 outings and surrendering 22 runs on 28 hits in 36.1 innings for an ERA of 5.20.

Keone Kela

The Rangers sent Kela to the Pirates for pitcher Taylor Hearn and infielder Sherten Apostel. With Texas, Kela had a 3-3 record and 3.44 ERA in 38 games, allowing 14 runs on 28 hits in 36.2 innings. With Pittsburgh, he went 0-1 but improved his ERA to 2.93, allowing five runs on 10 hits in 15.1 innings over 16 games. Kela struggled in his first month of baseball with the Pirates in 2019, picking up a 4.63 ERA in 14 games, allowing six runs on 11 hits in 11.2 innings. Kela has been sidelined with an injury since early May.

Brad Brach

The Orioles and Braves made a different pitcher trade in late July when Brach was sent to Atlanta in exchange for international bonus slot money. In 42 games with the O’s, Brach went 1-3 with a 4.85 ERA, allowing 24 runs on 50 hits in just 39 innings. He improved with the Braves, still going 1-2 but lowering his ERA to 1.52 while allowing eight runs on 22 hits in 23.2 innings. This past offseason, he signed with the Cubs and has struggled in the first half of the season, going 3-2 but posting a career-worst 6.11 ERA and allowing 24 runs on 38 hits in 35.1 innings over 36 games.

Zach Duke

Duke was traded along with cash from the Twins to the Mariners last July in exchange for Chase De Jong and Ryan Costello. With Minnesota, Duke had a 3.62 ERA and had allowed 19 runs on 44 hits in 37.1 innings over 45 games. With the Mariners, his ERA rose to 5.52 in 27 games, as he allowed nine runs on 13 hits in 14.1 innings. He signed with the Reds over the offseason and struggled to the tune of a 5.01 ERA, allowing 13 runs on 21 hits in 23.1 innings over 30 games. Earlier this month, he was designated for assignment and released, and remains a free agent.

Roberto Osuna

The Blue Jays traded a suspended Osuna to the Astros for pitchers David Paulino, Hector Perez and Ken Giles. Prior to his suspension, Osuna pitched in 15 games, picking up nine saves in 10 opportunities while allowing five runs on 16 hits in 15.1 innings for a 2.93 ERA. Once he was activated by Houston, he pitched in 23 games, posting a 1.99 ERA and allowing five runs on 17 hits in 22.2 innings while picking up 12 saves in as many attempts. Osuna has stayed on the same dominant path in 2019, pitching in 37 games and allowing nine runs on 23 hits in 37 innings, earning a 1.95 ERA while picking up 19 saves in 22 attempts.

Seunghwan Oh

The Blue Jays dealt reliever Seunghwan Oh to the Rockies for infielders Chad Spanberger and Forrest Wall. In 48 games with the Jays, Oh allowed 14 runs on 37 hits in 47 innings, picking up an impressive 2.68 ERA. His ERA improved a bit to 2.53 with Colorado, as he allowed seven runs on 15 hits in 21.1 innings over 25 games. However, he has struggled immensely in 2019 with the Rockies, allowing 19 runs on 29 hits in just 18.1 innings, earning himself a whopping 9.33 ERA over 21 games.

Of this list of 12 notable relievers traded last summer, 10 have had worse campaigns in 2019 than 2018. Eight of them had worse 2018 campaigns after their trade than before them. And, oh yeah, only five of them are currently pitching, after four were injured, one was released, one never signed a new deal, and one retired.

While Yates may be on a higher level than many of the relievers listed here, it’s not hard to see that relievers — even if seemingly dominant — have struggled one year removed from their deal. Obviously this would mean buyers beware for any team interested in Yates.

But for the Padres, it means go ahead and trade him.