As Kirby Yates enters his age 33 season, he is coming off his most dominant one in 2019. The 5-foot-10 righty collected the most saves in the National League (41) while posting a 1.19 ERA with a 15.0 K/9. He also earned his first All-Star selection and finishing ninth in the Cy Young voting.
Yates has been outstanding in a Padres uniform since being claimed off waivers in April 2017, recording a combined 2.31 ERA in nearly three seasons. He took over as the regular closer after the team traded Brad Hand – who was also claimed off waivers – and has revitalized his career in that role.
He’s likely due for a regression simply because his numbers were so good that it’s difficult to imagine repeating them. Still, that doesn’t mean he’s going to turn in a clunker of a year, but Fangraphs has him pegged for a 3.22 ERA season with 32 saves in 65 appearances. I believe that’s a fair prediction for Yates, who will also become a free agent at seasons’ end.
He signed a one-year, $7.1 million deal to return to San Diego in 2020, but his long-term future appears to be up in the air. Assuming that he adheres to those projected numbers, I could see a scenario where Yates tests the free-agent market, and virtually everyone in the Padres’ bullpen would shift up a slot next year with Emilio Pagan becoming the closer.