It looks like the San Diego Padres will go with a closer-by-committee approach in 2021. The man who finished the year as the go-to guy in the ninth, Trevor Rosenthal, departed via free agency and his predecessor has now done the same.
After two stellar seasons anchoring the back end of the Padres, Kirby Yates is moving on. The 33-year-old right-hander signed a one-year, $5.5 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays with another $4.5 million in potential incentives.
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Yates is coming off an injury-plagued 2020 season in which he made only a handful of appearances. In that limited number of outings, he got absolutely shelled to the tune of a 12.46 ERA and 2.538 WHIP. But the bone chips in his elbow that cost him the rest of the year clearly didn’t scare off the Jays, who after signing George Springer and reportedly closing in on a deal with Michael Brantley, are looking like a legitimate threat in the American League East.
Now, it’s not like anyone is going to accuse San Diego of playing small-ball this winter. After all, they’ve assembled a super-rotation that now boasts the likes of Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Chris Paddack, Joe Musgrove and Dinelson Lamet. That’s not to mention Mike Clevinger, who will return in 2022 after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year.
Padres are ready to move past Kirby Yates in the ninth inning
As far as the closer’s role goes in San Diego, the Friars will look to left-hander Drew Pomeranz and Emilio Pagan to close ballgames out in 2021. Now, Pomeranz was absolutely lights-out for the club last year, only allowing runs in his final appearance of the season. The San Diego Union-Tribune recently made it abundantly clear why the team holds him in such high regard.
Among relievers with at least 20 appearances, Pomeranz ranked sixth in hits per nine innings (4.34), tied for seventh in opponent average (.145), eighth in ERA (1.45) and ninth in strikeouts per nine innings (13.98). Pomeranz was especially effective when it mattered most, holding hitters to a .091 batting average with runners on base (3-for-33), a .133 average with runners in scoring position (2-for-15) and a .200 average with runners in scoring position and two outs (2-for-10).
Then you have to mention Pagan, Pomeranz’s right-handed counterpart in the late innings. Why? Because Jayce Tingler looks likely to play to the situation, using his biggest arms in the most high-leverage moments. He did this in 2020 – and we have no reason to expect anything different moving forward.
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As for Yates, if he’s healthy, he has a chance to play a big role for a Blue Jays team that features one of the brightest young cores in the game today. Given the Padres’ other expenditures this offseason and the internal options to lock down the late innings, this looks like a prudent move.