The Nationals have several spots to fill, a solid chunk of money to possibly do it with and lots of quality options to choose from.
The free agent list this year is not about superstar names. Rather, it’s about depth and quality. Even the second tier of free agents holds value, especially if their contracts are brief and costs suppressed by a mediocre market.
As part of our ongoing look at individuals who could fit in different places for the Nationals, here is a look at former San Diego reliever Kirby Yates.
What he does well: Dominate. Yates was arguably MLB’s best reliever in 2018 and 2019 for the Padres. A 2.14 ERA in 2018 was followed by a 1.19 ERA in 2019. And, Yates pitched often: 125 appearances in two years. His 15 strikeouts per nine innings in 2019 were a career-high all while throwing only two pitches, a four-seam fastball and a split-finger pitch (and he only walked two per nine innings). He threw his split-finger 42.1 percent of the time that season. Opponents slugged .178 against it.
Where he fits with the Nationals: On a prove-it-again contract. Yates pitched just 4 ⅓ innings in 2020 because of general soreness, then pain in his elbow which turned out to be bone chips. Season-ending surgery followed. Yates is 34. An incentive-filled deal is on the horizon for him. Why would the Nationals take the chance? Because they have the main parts of their bullpen -- Daniel Hudson, Tanner Rainey and Will Harris -- established. Testing Yates, likely with a clause that they could cut him at a minimal loss in spring training, is a worthy gamble.
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