With the start of the 2021 campaign still a week away, one of the Blue Jays' most intriguing winter signings looks to be shutting down his season before it even begins.
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins spoke to reporters on Tuesday and delivered some heart-wrenching injury news to the Toronto faithful, stating that newly-acquired bullpen arm Kirby Yates is “most likely” heading for season-ending Tommy John surgery.
The Blue Jays signed Yates to a one-year deal worth $5.5 million in January, banking on a bounce-back campaign after the 33-year-old appeared in six games with the San Diego Padres during the shortened 2020 season before having surgery to remove bone chips from his pitching elbow last August.
It was a calculated risk by the Blue Jays, according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, who reported on Tuesday that the reliever's physicals raised red flags on multiple occasions this offseason.
Yates reportedly had a one-year, $9 million offer in place with the Braves, who declined to finalize the deal after an MRI revealed additional issues with the pitcher's elbow.
The Blue Jays, who were aware the Braves pulled out of the deal, also had a more lucrative $8.5 million on the table, but that was reduced to $5.5 million upon learning of Yates' health concerns. The logic behind the decision was that Atkins believed the reward was enough to justify the risk.
Yates is just one season removed from a year in which recorded an MLB-high 41 saves, struck out 101, and walked only 13 batters over 60.2 innings of work.
He was expected to lead an extremely short list of candidates to close for the Jays this season.
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