The Blue Jays are in agreement with right-handed reliever Kirby Yates on a one-year deal, pending the results of a physical that could be less of a formality than for most free agents given that Yates’ 2020 season ended prematurely due to elbow inflammation. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal first reported news of the deal, and while Rosenthal initially reported that it was worth $8.25 million plus incentives, he is now reporting that it’ll be in the range of $5 million to $5.5 million, which aligns with a report from Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith.
Free-agent reliever Kirby Yates is in agreement with the Blue Jays, a source tells The Athletic.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 19, 2021
Another source confirms report from @bnicholsonsmith: Yates guarantee with Blue Jays actually will be in $5M-$5.5M range, not $8.25M as I said earlier.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 20, 2021
Yates was a journeyman into his early 30s, spending time in the Rays, Yankees, and Angels organizations before the Padres claimed him off waivers in 2018. He posted career-best numbers — a 3.72 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP — over 61 games for San Diego that season, but he arrived in full force the next year, ascending to the closer role. Over 125 relief appearances from 2018-19, Yates had a 1.67 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP with 191 strikeouts and 30 walks over 123.2 innings. He recorded 53 saves over that stretch, making the NL All-Star team in 2019 and finishing ninth in NL Cy Young voting.
Yates clearly wasn’t at full health during the shortened 2020 season, though. He had a 12.46 ERA and a 2.54 WHIP, striking out eight and walking four over six games (4.1 innings). He went on the injured list with right elbow inflammation on August 15 and did not return. The Blue Jays were in need of a closer after Ken Giles underwent Tommy John surgery and subsequently became a free agent, so they’ll hope Yates can bounce back and solidify the bullpen of a club that could be a playoff contender again in 2021.