Blue Jays rumors: Tyler Chatwood in, Kirby Yates close to deal

Free-agent pitcher Kirby Yates. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Free-agent pitcher Kirby Yates. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /
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Multiple Blue Jays rumors circulating about Tyler Chatwood, Kirby Yates

The Toronto Blue Jays rumors are flying full speed with reports of right-hander Tyler Chatwood agreeing to a deal and former All-Star closer Kirby Yates reportedly engaged in serious discussions.

Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported the Chatwood news Monday night.

Meanwhile, Scott Mitchell of TSN reported Tuesday morning on the Yates developments, indicating a visit to Dunedin to meet with Jays officials wasn’t just for sight-seeing.

Blue Jays rumors: Tyler Chatwood stuff too tempting to resist

Tyler Chatwood is a nine-year veteran and turned 31 last month and even though he has struggled with consistency outside of the 2013 and 2016 campaigns while he was with the Colorado Rockies, his toolbox includes a fastball that averaged 94.3 mph last season, a cutter clocked at 90 mph on average as well as a changeup and curveball, according to FanGraphs.

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His problem has been consistency. In 2017, his last season in Colorado, he led the National League with 15 losses and in 2018, his first year with the Chicago Cubs, he issued more walks than any pitcher in the NL (95) despite working just 103.2 innings. That’s an 8.2 walks per nine innings rate which is … not great.

Last season he found his way back into Chicago’s rotation after being sent to the bullpen in 2019. In five starts and 18.2 innings, Chatwood posted a 5.30 ERA and 1.661 WHIP with nine walks and 25 strikeouts before he was shut down in September because of a sore elbow.

His first two starts last season were dazzling: six innings of three-hit baseball, allowing just one run and fanning eight in a win over the Milwaukee Brewers on July 26, followed by 6.2 scoreless innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 30, again allowing only three hits and striking out 11. He had two walks in each of those starts.

Then the bottom fell out. He was battered for eight runs on 11 hits in 2.1 innings in a 13-2 loss on the road to the Kansas City Royals on Aug. 6 and was shut down for 19 days. When he came back Aug. 25 against the Detroit Tigers on the road, he walked five and surrendered two runs on three hits in 1.1 innings.

Facing the Cincinnati Reds on Aug. 30 at Great American Ballpark, Chatwood was off to a solid start, but departed after spiking a pitch in the third inning, per Jordan Bastian of MLB.com.

The Blue Jays are reportedly offering Chatwood a one-year deal for $3 million, according to Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com.

The Blue Jays are taking a low-cost gamble they can somehow reclaim the Chatwood of 2016. In 27 starts that season, he posted a 3.87 ERA and 1.373 WHIP in 158 innings, walking 70 and striking out 117,

For his career, Chatwood has a 4.40 ERA and 1.514 WHIP in 197 appearances, 143 of them starts, covering 846.2 innings. He’s averaged 6.6 strikeouts and 4.7 walks per nine innings.

Blue Jays rumors: Kirby Yates could be big boost for bullpen

Kirby Yates was dominant as the closer for the San Diego Padres in 2019, saving 41 games in 44 opportunities while earning his first All-Star berth. In 60 appearances covering 60.2 innings, Yates had a microscopic 1.19 ERA and 0.890 WHIP, with 101 strikeouts and only 13 walks.

But he made just six appearances in 2020 and was shut down in mid-August before undergoing surgery to remove bone chips in his right elbow, per Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun.

Yates, who turns 34 in March, is something of a risk because of both injury and age. The Blue Jays struggled last season to close out games. Closer Ken Giles blew out his elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery on Sept. 30, according to Heyman.

Toronto ended up reaching the playoffs with a 32-28 record despite converting only 17 of 29 save chances. The 12 blown saves tied for fourth-worst in the American League per Baseball-Reference.com, trailing only the Los Angeles Angels (14), Boston Red Sox (13) and Houston Astros (13).

Yates was a late-bloomer as a closer. He worked as a setup man for the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees and the Angels between 2014-17 before heading to San Diego in the same role.

But in 2018, Yates was promoted to the closer role after Brad Hand was traded to the Cleveland Indians and converted 12 of 13 save chances.

Last season, Kirby was roughed up for six runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings, walking four and striking out eight before going on the injured list.

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But if Yates is fully healthy, he would constitute a massive upgrade at the end of the Blue Jays’ bullpen.