Rangers acquire Kirby Yates to bolster bullpen depth

In 2018, Kirby Yates arrived at the San Diego Padres’ Spring Training, engaging in multiple discussions with pitcher Chris Young, his former teammate, who now serves as the Rangers’ general manager. Little did Yates know that, five years later, Young would become his boss. On Wednesday, the Rangers revealed that they had signed Yates to a one-year contract worth $4.5 million, as per inside sources.

Yates met with the media through Zoom and expressed his enthusiasm for resuming conversations with Young in the upcoming season. He reminisced, “We had a lot of conversations [in 2018]. I had a lot of respect for him then and I thought he was absolutely brilliant.”

The connection with Young wasn’t the only factor that lured Yates to Texas. The signing represents a mutually advantageous partnership for the player and the club as they head into the 2024 season. The Rangers’ bullpen requires depth and experience after posting a 4.77 ERA in 2023, ranking 24th in MLB, with the back end finishing 30-for-63 (47.7 percent) in save opportunities.

Yates delivered a better ERA (3.28) than any other Rangers reliever, except José Leclerc, in 2023. Rangers’ GM Young stated earlier at the Winter Meetings, “Improving our bullpen is a priority and we’re making progress.”

Yates aims to prove that he can successfully complete a Major League season while in full health. In 2023, he recorded 80 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings for the Braves, following multiple injury-plagued years from 2020 to 2022.

In 2019, Yates led the National League in saves (41) with the Padres, registering a 1.19 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings, earning his first career All-Star selection. Reflecting on the 2023 season, Yates said, “I needed to check the box that I can still pitch a Major League season healthy. I did that. I would have loved to pick up right where I left off, but I think I had to go through some more growing pains again.”

Yates didn’t spend three years rehabbing just to return to the big leagues. He wants to be a significant contributor for a contending club, adding value in the postseason. The Rangers, fresh off their first World Series in franchise history, presented him the perfect opportunity.

“They’re going to be competitive for years to come,” Yates observed. “Everything that I’ve heard about the organization has been top-notch and then you also get a chance to go out and compete for a championship every year. I don’t know if you want anything else as a player, personally.”


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