DENVER -- Kirby Yates is a trade candidate this summer, because, well, everyone is a trade candidate in the eyes of Padres general manager A.J. Preller. This is the same Preller, after all, who once said he'd be willing to trade Fernando Tatis Jr. if he got "two Tatises" in return.
But the current trade buzz around Yates seems premature, according to team sources. The lockdown right-hander has developed into one of the baseball's elite closers, and it would take an overwhelming offer to pry him from San Diego.
The reasoning is twofold: First, the Padres think there's a reasonable path back to contention this season, and they don't consider themselves "sellers." (At least, not yet.) Second, Yates is under contract control through 2020. Given the youth on the roster, the Padres think they'll find themselves squarely in the playoff mix next season. Yates' presence would clearly help that cause.
Those stated goals line up with precisely with what Yates wants.
"I'd prefer to stay here," said Yates, who turned his career around after being claimed by the Padres in April 2017. "I don't want to go anywhere else. I want to win here. I've built a lot of strong relationships here with staff members and my teammates. My family likes it here, my wife likes it here, and the way the Padres organization has treated me and my family has been awesome."
Of course, it won't be Yates' decision to make. Twenty-nine other teams could use a right-hander like him at the back of their bullpens.
Yates leads the Majors with 23 saves and has 48 strikeouts in 28 innings this season, entering Friday. He owns a 0.96 ERA, and a 0.80 FIP, indicating he has been legitimately as good as those numbers indicate.
"Kirby's well-equipped to handle whatever noise comes," Padres manager Andy Green said of the Trade Deadline. "We want Kirby here, though. There's no other message. We want Kirby closing games for us. We plan on contending and winning, and a guy like him is incredibly valuable to that."
The Padres entered play Friday 5 1/2 games back in the National League Wild Card picture. If their recent struggles continue, that could change the front office's plans ahead of the Trade Deadline. But not necessarily for Yates.
As things stand, the Padres' relief corps is thin. A year ago, Yates was joined in the 'pen by Jose Castillo, Matt Strahm, Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. Now? Cimber and Hand are in Cleveland, Strahm is in the rotation, and Castillo hasn’t pitched this season because of a flexor strain.
Even if the Padres were to fall out of contention this year, dealing Yates would put them in a precarious spot entering the offseason. Essentially, they'd be entering their win-now window with their bullpen as a major question mark.
Then again, it’s difficult to envision Yates being this dominant for the duration of that window, even with his work ethic and his durability. Yates is already 32. His value won't ever be higher than it is right now. And that's the biggest reason for the recent speculation.
"I don't pay enough attention to it to notice it," Yates said. "I don't have an opinion on it. It's out of my control, so I don't listen to it. This year might just be a little bit different than previous years because I've been asked about it a little bit more."
For the next month and a half, those questions aren't likely to stop.
• Right fielder Franmil Reyes was out of the starting lineup Friday night, a day after he fell hard while making a diving catch. Green said Reyes is battling a stiff neck and that he'd be available to pinch-hit. It's possible Reyes would've been given the day off, anyway, with the lefty-hitting Josh Naylor starting against right-hander Jeff Hoffman.
• Lefty Joey Lucchesi is slated to start Monday in the series opener against the Brewers on four days’ rest, leaving Tuesday open for a potential bullpen day. The Padres have preferred to give their young pitchers five days’ rest between starts, but that isn’t a hard-and-fast rule for Lucchesi and Eric Lauer.
"We're more comfortable with [Lucchesi and Lauer] making that adjustment, and Joey starting off the series makes sense for us," Green said.
Perfect sense. After four games in hitter-friendly Colorado, the Padres are turning to one of their most effective innings-eaters, rather than asking for extra work from their bullpen. Plus, Nick Margevicius starts Sunday, and he left his last start early as part of a planned piggyback.
• Franchy Cordero was out of the lineup at Triple-A El Paso again on Friday night. He sustained a left quad injury Wednesday, and the extent remains unclear. Cordero is in El Paso on a rehab stint as he works his way back from a right-elbow sprain.