The Braves still haven’t made a significant splash this offseason, but they did sign a couple of relievers on Monday. First, it was Darren O’Day to a minor league deal. He’ll have a chance to compete for a spot in the bullpen in Spring Training and has a fantastic chance of doing so, given all the trouble the Braves had with their right-handed relievers last season. However, the real prize was announced Friday night in the signing of Kirby Yates.
On the surface, handing a relief arm a two-year, $8.25 million deal seems like a risky proposition. And in some ways, it still is, but when you look at the way the contract is structured, it should make Braves fans feel much more comfortable. Yates will only earn $1 million next season, $6 million in 2023, and then has a $5.75 million club option for 2024 with a $1.25 million buyout.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) November 30, 2021
So yes, Yates will not be available for a large portion of the 2022 campaign, but since he’s only making $1 million, the Braves can feel comfortable easing him back into things. If he has to take the entire year off, so be it, but there’s a great chance he can contribute during the final months of the season and into the playoffs — also known as when it matters.
Yates is exactly what the Braves bullpen is missing. Atlanta’s relievers showed out in the postseason, but they were shaky for most of the season, particularly from the right side. Outside of Luke Jackson, who has had his fair share of ups and downs, the Braves don’t have any reliable right-handed relievers on the roster heading into 2022. Yates may not be able to fix that immediately, but he should provide the team another high leverage relief arm by the end of the season. And if Yates can come back fully healthy, he could end up replacing Will Smith as the team’s closer in 2023.