The 2023 MLB Winter Meetings have been uncharacteristically slow. Very few deals have gotten done in the first few days. Much of this has to do with teams around the league waiting to find out who wins the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes. In the meantime, the Rangers got started reinforcing their bullpen. The Rangers signed Kirby Yates, who was most recently with the Braves, to a one year deal today to get free agency started for the Defending Champions.
What does Kirby Yates add to the Texas Rangers bullpen?
Yates is a 36 year old, 10 year MLB veteran. After a rough year with the Padres in 2020, he has spent the last two seasons improving and getting back to some of his top form in Atlanta. He appeared as a late inning guy last year for the Braves, showing up in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings throughout the season. He had a very solid 3.28 ERA for the 2023 season, striking out 80 batters and walking 37 in just over 60 innings pitched.
Yates uses three pitches: fastball, changeup, and slider. Per his baseball savant page, Yates is in the 82nd percentile (top 18%) in whiff rate as well as in the 94th percentile for strikeout percentage (top 6%). He struck out 31.5% of batters he faced last season. In other words, he has high quality swing-and-miss stuff.
This is a nice addition to the Rangers bullpen. Yates would have had the third lowest ERA in the Rangers bullpen last year behind Jose Leclerc and Aroldis Chapman. Although further reinforcement is still needed, Yates provides reliable experience in the late innings for the Rangers. He will likely serve in a role similar to, and interchangeable with, Josh Sborz. Both are comfortable and experienced pitching in the seventh or eighth, and can provide stability in those innings to hopefully allow someone like Leclerc or a closer yet to be signed to come in and slam the door. It's no secret the Rangers needed bullpen help after blowing a staggering 33 saves last year. This move is hopefully the first of a few to help make sure that doesn't happen again in 2024.