Rangers, reliever Yates agree to 1-year deal

December 7th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- If there’s one thing the Rangers need this offseason, it’s quality bullpen arms. It’s been a slow-moving offseason so far, but as the Winter Meetings came to a close Wednesday, the club announced it had agreed to a one-year contract with reliever .

“Improving our bullpen is a priority and we're making progress,” said general manager Chris Young.

“[Bullpens] can be very volatile,” he added. “I think that's one of the important reasons to have a lot of numbers and have depth and to have competition in Spring Training and to have non-roster invites. We're going to take the 13 best for our pitching staff, and so I think it's a really important aspect in terms of building that out.”

Yates, 36, enjoyed a bounce-back season in 2023, logging a 3.28 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings (61 appearances) out of the Braves' bullpen. That was after injuries limited the right-hander to just 11 1/3 innings of work over the previous three seasons.

Before that, Yates was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball, leading the National League in saves (41) in 2019 as a member of the Padres. He compiled a 1.19 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings that season as he earned his only career All-Star bid.

Yates should be a welcomed addition to a Rangers team that, despite winning its first World Series, finished 24th in MLB in bullpen ERA (4.77) in the regular season, while finishing just 30-for-63 (47.6 percent) in save opportunities.

Right-hander Chris Stratton and lefties Aroldis Chapman and Will Smith are all free agents, but the majority of relievers the Rangers used in 2023 are returning.

Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said he is confident in both José Leclerc and Josh Sborz at the back end of the bullpen going into 2024, but Yates gives the club another right-handed option that can fill various roles.

Leclerc figures to have re-earned the closer role entering the season, though Bochy has often gone more matchup based in high-leverage situations later in the season. As dominoes continue to fall across the Majors, the Rangers will no doubt continue adding to the bullpen, whether it’s via trade or free agency.

“I thought last year, we felt pretty good about our depth,” Young said. “We did not address our bullpen much going into last season and it thinned out very quickly. Some of the players that we were counting on to be contributors either underperformed or a few became injured, and it impacted that. I think it exacerbated or magnified the quality of our bullpen. So, yeah, one of the things that we're very focused on this year is fortifying our bullpen and our pitching staff as a whole.”