MLB: Three highest upside free agents and possible landing spots

Free agent shortstop Andrelton Simmons.. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
Free agent shortstop Andrelton Simmons.. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images) /
3 of 4
(Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /

A former MLB leader in saves, Kirby Yates is a bounce-back candidate after missing almost all of 2020.

Since joining the San Diego Padres in 2017, Kirby Yates saw his stock climb higher with each season, culminating in a truly dominant 2019 campaign. Establishing himself as one of the top relief options in baseball, Yates appeared destined for a big contract when hitting free agency, but that time is now and with a deep group of relievers on the market and Yates coming off an injury-filled 2020, the big dollar signs won’t be there for Yates.

But there’s still a chance that a team can get a bit of the old Kirby Yates on a cheap deal.

In 2019, Yates finished second to Liam Hendriks after putting together a 3.4 fWAR season. He saved 41 games and recorded a 1.91 ERA, a 0.89 WHIP, and a 41.6% strikeout rate thanks to a dominant splitter that produced a 34% whiff rate.

But then came 2020. Yates logged just 4.1 innings this season, striking out eight hitters but giving up six earned runs on seven hits before going down for the year due to elbow surgery.

For teams looking at adding bullpen depth this offseason, Kirby Yates is an intriguing bounce-back candidate who still has plenty left in the tank if he’s healthy.

If he agrees to an incentive-laden deal, a reunion with the Padres isn’t out of the question. If not, it’s likely Yates remains out west with a team like San Francisco, Arizona, or maybe even a team like Seattle.