Potential Phillies free-agent target: Kirby Yates
Kirby Yates’ standout season came in 2019 with the San Diego Padres, where he posted a 1.19 ERA, 0.890 WHIP, 101 strikeouts and MLB-best 41 saves in 60 relief appearances, while getting an All-Star nod and finishing ninth place in Cy Young voting.
The right-hander’s first four major league seasons were unimpressive overall, with a 4.78 ERA in 160 games, all out of the bullpen. The fourth of those seasons, in 2017, saw him join the Padres in late April, where he was claimed off of waivers. He appeared to turn things around with the team, recording a 2.14 ERA and 0.921 WHIP in 2018.
His stellar 2019 campaign saw a streak of eight straight saves, 31 games with multiple strikeouts, only two home runs allowed and only eight games with an earned run surrendered, numbers that are similar to Treinen in 2018.
Yates started this past season with two strikeouts in a clean inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks, before struggling in his next two outings, giving up a combined four runs off of five hits and four walks in 1 1/3 innings against the Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
The reliever reportedly identified “mechanical adjustments,” which seemed to help in his next two games. Yates gave up a solo home run but struck out the other three batters, while recording a save, against the Dodgers. He gave up a hit but got the save in his next inning of relief, against the Diamondbacks, before his season came to an abrupt end.
After sitting out for a week with soreness, Yates was pulled from a game after only six pitches, leaving with a trainer. What turned out to be bone chips in his right elbow sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
While it’s hard to predict what the Phillies would get from Yates, we’ve seen pitchers come back from injury before. Both Yates and Treinen are risky options because of their recent injury concerns and it’s possible that their standout campaigns were one-hit wonders.
Still, both relievers looked good in other years and would be considered noticeable improvements over the Phillies’ familiar bullpen options from recent seasons. With the potential to provide a one-two punch — late in games or take turns in the closer role — both Treinen and Yates would be worth pursuing.