In a somewhat surprising move, the Atlanta Braves have declined Kirby Yates' $5.75 million club option. Instead of taking the option, Yates will receive a $1.25 million buyout and start the free-agent process. The move comes after the Braves recently extended Joe Jiménez and Pierce Johnson to bulk up the bullpen.
While being declined, the 36-year-old pitcher faired well in a Braves uniform, partially reviving his career since his incredible 2019 campaign. Yates earned seven wins and two losses, posting a 3.28 ERA in 61 appearances.
He was placed in some closing situations, earning five saves while blowing three. Where Yates further struggled was control, walking 5.8 batters on average through nine innings. In the postseason, Yates made the diamond once, pitching one inning and allowing an unearned run while striking out two.
The move has spurred some discussion from teams looking to get a hold of the Hawaiian reliever. Even if he will not be in a Braves uniform, 2023 showed that Yates can still pitch at a high level, especially in the middle innings.
It is interesting that the Braves decided to decline the option as it wasn't too expensive. However, with Yates' up-and-down performance, that money could be better spent elsewhere. Atlanta picked up Charlie Morton's option but they still need to add another dependable arm to the rotation.
Saving the almost $6 million that would have been allocated for Yates could be put toward that purpose. The Braves need more experienced starting pitching depth as that was a massive weakness for the team during the 2023 playoffs.
Having played for six franchises, it will be interesting to see if he returns to a team such as the Padres where he has had previous success and some holes in the pen. So, he will land on his feet somewhere and hopefully, he will find success with that team.