MLB free agency: Blue Jays, reliever Kirby Yates agree to deal, per report

The Toronto Blue Jays have agreed to sign free-agent reliever Kirby Yates, pending a physical, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.  Yates’ 2020 season was cut short due to bone chips in his right elbow. He had surgery in late August and the timetable for a return was said to be six-to-eight weeks at the time, so it’s very likely he’ll be heading to spring training this season unencumbered. 

In 2019, he had 41 saves in 44 chances for the Padres with a 1.19 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 101 strikeouts against 12 unintentional walks in 60 2/3 innings. In 2018, he pitched to a 2.14 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 90 strikeouts against 17 walks in 63 innings. 

Yates, a bit of a late bloomer, will turn 34 years old this March. 

The Blue Jays didn’t really have one closer last season, with three relievers recording multiple saves and Anthony Bass (now a free agent) leading the team with seven. Jordan Romano had a 1.23 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and a pair of saves in just 14 2/3 innings and would be an option if the Jays are seeking one closer for the 2021 season. Ken Giles is recovering from Tommy John surgery and likely won’t pitch again until 2022.

Of course, with his pedigree and given the free-agent signing, Yates has to figure as the favorite for the ninth-inning job moving into the season. 

Regardless, it the success of 2020 can be carried over with Romano and Rafael Dolis (1.50 ERA, 31 K, 24 IP), and if Yates can pitch like anything resembling his 2018-19 self, the Blue Jays look to have an excellent back-end trio in the bullpen. 

The Blue Jays have also been missing out on deals throughout the offseason, so call it a win to land Yates here. 

Top free-agent reliever Liam Hendriks signed with the White Sox recently. Lefty Brad Hand along with righties Alex Colome, Trevor Rosenthal, Shane Greene and Mark Melancon still remain as possible upper-tier options in free agency with Yates now off the table. 

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