Yates reunites with Young, aims to prove himself

December 9th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- In 2018, entered Spring Training with the San Diego Padres. Throughout camp he had multiple conversations with fellow pitcher Chris Young, who is now the Rangers' general manager. 

What Yates didn’t know was that the guy who was once his teammate would be his boss five years later. On Wednesday, the Rangers announced the signing of Yates to a one-year deal, which, according to sources, is worth $4.5 million. 

Yates, who met with the media via Zoom on Friday, expressed excitement to further conversations with Young entering this season. 

“We had a lot of conversations [in 2018],” Yates said. “I had a lot of respect for him then and I thought he was absolutely brilliant. When Texas hired him to be in a front-office job, I thought that was just a tremendous hire. I think, so far, having conversations with him, they've been awesome. It's kind of cool. I guess the older you get, you have built-in relationships. I guess one of the perks is being 37 years old and still playing.”

The connection wasn’t the only thing that brought Yates to Texas, though. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship for the player and the club going into 2024. The Rangers' bullpen is in need of depth and experience after posting a 4.77 ERA in 2023, which was 24th in MLB. The back end of the bullpen finished 30-for-63 (47.7 percent) in save opportunities. 

Yates had a better ERA (3.28) than every Rangers reliever not named José Leclerc in 2023. 

“Improving our bullpen is a priority and we're making progress,” Young said at the Winter Meetings earlier this week. 

Yates wants to continue showing that he can still pitch a Major League season fully healthy. In 2023, the right-hander had 80 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings for the Braves. That came after he pitched just 11 1/3 innings from 2020-22 as injuries plagued him.

It wasn’t perfect, but in 2023, Yates looked close to regaining his previous form. In '19, he led the National League in saves (41) with the Padres. That season he posted a 1.19 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings, earning his only career All-Star bid.

“I think going into last year, the one thing I needed to do for me, personally, in order to see where my career was going to go, was to stay healthy,” Yates said. “I needed to check the box that I can still pitch a Major League season healthy. I did that. I thought there were times where I was good, but there are times where I was really bad. 

“I would have loved to pick up right where I left off, but I think I had to go through some more growing pains again. For the most part, I’m satisfied with last year and the way it went and I do expect to be better next year.”

Getting healthy was the first step, but Yates didn’t rehab for three years just to get back to the big leagues, he said. He wants to be a major contributor for a contending big league club. He wants to add value in the postseason. 

The Rangers, coming off their first World Series in franchise history, presented him the perfect opportunity to do just that. 

“They're going to be competitive for years to come,” Yates said. “Everything that I've heard about the organization has been top notch and then you also get a chance to go out and compete for a championship every year. I don't know if you want anything else as a player, personally.”