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Yankees potential trade target: Kirby Yates

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Could the Yankees reunite with Yates?

San Diego Padres v Colorado Rockies Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Yankees will look to add starting pitching help over the coming weeks. Elite pitchers are hard to come by, however, and it remains to be seen what price the Bombers might be willing to pay. Last year, they ended up with the likes of J.A. Happ, Lance Lynn, and Zack Britton. If they aren’t able to get a starting pitcher at a reasonable price, they certainly could target a reliever and make their bullpen even better. Might they connect with the Padres about Kirby Yates?

Yates, 32, is an old friend of the Yankees. The right-hander spent the 2016 season in pinstripes, where he pitched to a 5.23 ERA (3.97 FIP) across 41.1 innings. His strikeout rate was a solid 10.89, but he walked far too many batters (4.14 BB/9). That offseason the Angels claimed Yates on the waiver wire. They ultimately designated him for assignment, and the Padres picked him up.

The right-hander has really come into his own in San Diego. Yates has a 165 ERA+ over 157.2 innings with the Padres. Over the past few years, his strikeout numbers jumped up to 13.5 K/9, while his walk rate decreased to 2.6 BB/9. He even took over as the team’s closer in 2017. So far, 2019 has been his best season yet. Yates has been worth 2.1 fWAR, and has pitched to a 1.15 ERA with a nasty 0.79 WHIP. He has already notched 30 saves, and has just one blown save. The 32-year-old deservingly earned his first All-Star nod this year.

Interestingly, Yates attributed some of his success since leaving New York to the Yankees. During the 2016-2017 offseason, he worked on changing his “out” pitch from his slider to a splitter. He credited Nathan Eovaldi, Chasen Shreve, and Masahiro Tanaka for helping him establish it. Each of them used a different grip, so he worked on figuring out his own grip, too. The change obviously helped.

As this point, it’s clear that 2019 won’t be the year that San Diego pulls itself out of the cellar. The Dodgers have run away with the division, though they are only a few games out of a Wild Card spot. The Yankees and Padres have matched up for numerous trades over the past few years, including the deal that brought Chase Headley to the Bronx, and the trade that sent him (and Bryan Mitchell) back to San Diego.

The Yankees would have to give up a solid package to land Yates, though. It’s certainly possible that the Padres will make Yates available, but they may want to hang onto him until he hits free agency, which isn’t until 2021. Especially since the Padres appear to be on an upward swing.

Would you like to see Yates back in pinstripes? What kind of package do you think it would take to get a deal done? Let us know in the comments.