One of the more surprising stories of the offseason was the Braves’ lack of action in the market for relief arms, especially since three of their top bullpen pieces — Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, and Darren O’Day — hit free agency. Most expected them to bring at least one back, and if they opted to pass on all of them, surely they would explore some other notable free-agent arms.
However, the Braves didn’t crack a deal with any of the hot names on the market for one reason or another. It certainly wasn’t because of a lack of interest. Atlanta was reportedly in on nearly every reliever available, including Kirby Yates, who ended up signing back with the Blue Jays.
To say the Braves dodged a bullet would be an understatement. The season has yet to begin, and it looks almost certain that Yates will go under the knife and be out for the season thanks to Tommy John surgery. According to a recent report from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, this is a primary reason why the Braves balked on the opportunity to sign the All-Star reliever to a one-year deal.
The first time, the Braves declined to finalize a one-year, $9 million agreement with the free-agent closer, according to major-league sources. The second time, the Blue Jays reduced a proposed one-year, $8.5 million guarantee for Yates to $5.5 million, believing his upside was high enough to justify the risk.
The Braves, facing the losses of relievers Darren O’Day, Mark Melancon and Shane Greene in free agency, envisioned Yates anchoring the back of their bullpen. Their agreement with him, like all free-agent deals, was pending a physical, a mere formality for most players. But Braves officials grew uncomfortable when an MRI revealed additional issues with Yates’ elbow, sources said.
For a team with a limited payroll like the Braves, $9 million is a large chunk of cash, which could have even been the difference between them re-signing Marcell Ozuna. I’d be a bit surprised if that were the case; however, it’s a good thing the Braves did their proper due diligence and avoided wasting millions on an injured player. Perhaps their experience with Cole Hamels last season taught them a lesson.