With Nintendo still holding onto a 10% stake of the Mariners, it’s about time they get a Kirby. That would be San Diego Padres reliever Kirby Yates, strikeout extraordinaire.
The Seattle Mariners have a really good bullpen already. James Pazos and Edwin Diaz have been spectacular. Nick Vincent has been a solid seventh-to-eighth inning man. Alex Colome has so far been everything the M’s could have hoped for after acquiring him on May 25. Juan Nicasio struggled in the month of May but has recently regained form and been nearly unhittable over the last couple weeks.
Even guys like Dan Altavilla and Chasen Bradford have been solid contributors this season. Roenis Elias is back with the Mariners as a left-handed long man now that Marc Rzepczynski has been DFA’d (thank God).
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But a good team, which I believe the Mariners are, gets greedy in the trade market, and rightfully so. Especially when it comes to adding to the bullpen, which often doesn’t cost a team much if they don’t need a closer.
With the Mariners already having two closers on their team in Colome and Diaz, they won’t have to go down that path. They can, and should, continue to add significant talent to this bullpen with a playoff run surely on the horizon.
So that’s where Kirby Yates comes in. I wrote about Yates as a potential trade target when David Phelps went down with a torn UCL in Spring Training. What jumped out at me then is what jumps out to me now: an extremely high strikeout rate for a middle reliever.
The one downside I had about Yates was his below-average BB/9 for the 2017 season (3.02). This year, Yates has lowered that number to an average 2.57 clip while maintaining his fantastic strikeout numbers.
Yates hasn’t given teams many opportunities to score this year either. His xFIP currently sits at 3.01, which slots him at 34th best among MLB relievers right behind James Pazos (2.99).
At age 31, Yates is only making $1 million this year and is arbitration-eligible for 2019 and 2020. He would not make the slightest dent in the Mariners’ payroll for 2018. Furthermore, his age and positional role indicate that his price in trade talks should be relatively low.
Yates would make the Mariners better now and in the future with two more years of club control. That’s something Jerry Dipoto has significantly championed over the course of his tenure as the Mariners’ GM.
With all that said, let’s propose a hypothetical deal we think would work.
The Mariners acquire RHP Kirby Yates from the San Diego Padres for RHP Chase De Jong and RHP Collin Kober.
It just hasn’t worked out for De Jong within the Mariners organization. After being a highly-touted pitching prospect in the Dodgers’ system, De Jong fell flat on his face in 2017 for the M’s. Since then, he’s been an average-to-below-average pitcher and has found himself all the way in AA.
However, a team like the Padres may value the idea that it could be a change-of-scenery situation for De Jong. As I said, De Jong was one of the better pitching prospects in a robust Dodgers system. That’s why the Mariners traded for him.
With the Padres seemingly already out of contention in 2018, they can allow De Jong to eat innings in the Majors and see if he can turn it around with service time he would never get from the Mariners.
Kober, on the other hand, is a young reliever with a nose for the strike zone. With a K/9 of 11.48 in Clinton, Kober could quickly rise through an organization’s ranks and contribute to a team sooner rather than later.
Say what you want about the Padres, but they’ve had a lot of success with their bullpen and currently have one of the best units in the MLB. It would be a good system for Kober to thrive in.
In conclusion, it’s a deal that makes sense for both teams regarding current status and overall team philosophy.
The Mariners need to get a bit greedy in the trade market, while also being smart and realistic about what they truly can afford. Yates fits the criteria of what the Mariners need in 2018 perfectly.