With their trade of Ryan Buchter, Brandon Maurer, and Trevor Cahill to the Kansas City Royals on Monday afternoon, the Padres not only finally kicked off their trade deadline moving and shaking, but they also blew up their bullpen in the process.
While Hand has been reliably used as the Padres’ bullpen fireman, operating as a quasi set-up man/multi-inning relief ace, Ryan Buchter and Brandon Maurer more or less operated in the seventh and ninth inning roles respectively. Now that Maurer is no longer in San Diego, Hand will likely take over those closing duties, at least for the next five or six days.
After that, the Padres will very likely need to find themselves a new closer, as Hand should be traded before the trade deadline comes to pass on July 31.
So with Hand likely on his way out of San Diego, who will end up closing for the Padres over the last two months of the season?
At this point, there are really three obvious choices who should all get proper consideration from Andy Green and company over the next week or so. While Jose Torres and Craig Stammen have had their share of successes this year, both appear very unlikely for a closer role, although both should see an uptick in high-leverage innings.
Considering he only recently made his return to the big leagues, Buddy Baumann is also not really an option. That leaves the trio of Kirby Yates, Phil Maton, and Carter Capps as potential closers for the rest of the season. All three come with their strengths and weaknesses, so what better way to evaluate them than a little compare and contrast.
Hand, Maton, Yates will be up for save chances. Carter Capps also “definitely in the conversation” Green said. Capps has been 88-94 in AAA.
— Jeff Sanders (@sdutSanders) July 25, 2017
Kirby Yates- RHP, 30 years old, 5-10/210 lbs
2017: 32.1 IP, 2.23 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 30.8 K-BB%
Let’s start with the player who has probably had the best season of any Padre reliever not named Brad Hand. While Brad Hand was last year’s early season waiver wire reclamation project, Yates appears to be this year’s edition. Prior to that, the Padres also had Ryan Buchter, who was also claimed off of waivers, but is now pitching for the Kansas City Royals. It’s clear that the Padres have had a great deal of success finding useful reliever reclamation projects over the last few years. However, Yates could end up being the most interesting of all because his value may just continue to grow going forward.
Prior to this season, the right-hander had three years of big league experience with varying levels of success. After posting a sub-4.00 ERA in 36 innings as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2014, Yates struggled in his second go-around with the Rays, posting a 7.97 ERA in 20 and a third innings. Following a trade to the Cleveland Indians after the season, Yates was moved once again to the Yankees right before the next season. After moving shop to New York for the 2015 season, Yates had slightly more success, posting a 5.23 ERA, but better 3.97 FIP, but he wasn’t great overall. After the season, Yates was placed on waivers, where he was claimed by the Los Angeles Angels. Following a poor first appearance, Yates was once again placed on waivers, where he was this time claimed by the Padres.
Since being claimed off waivers by the Padres on April 26, Yates has given up eight earned runs in his 32 and a third innings of work. Even more important is Yates near 38 percent strikeout rate to go along with a walk rate just under seven percent. Add to all that the fact that Yates has been lights out in high leverage situations, with a 1.00 FIP and 44.4 percent strikeout rate, and it’s easy to see just how he’s been so good for the Padres after being claimed off waivers. He’s only thrown a few high-leverage innings, but based on his dominant performance in lower-leverage innings, he seems capable of making the jump. If the Padres do pull the trigger on moving him into the closer role, that will also do wonders for his trade value. That is if the Padres don’t choose to move him before the deadline as well.
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