With so many open spots currently on their 40-man roster, the Milwaukee Brewers have plenty of room to be aggressive in pursuing several different avenues to add talent this offseason. David Stearns and company dipped their toes into the waiver wire pool today, as the organization officially announced that they had claimed right-hander Eric Yardley from the San Diego Padres.
Yardley turned 29 in August and made his Major League Debut with San Diego this past season. He appeared in 10 games and logged 11.2 innings with Friars, posting a 2.31 ERA with seven strikeouts versus three walks. He was recently designated for assignment by the Padres and a previous report indicated that he’d already been released from the team, but evidently that was incorrect and the Brewers were able to pluck him off of release waivers before he hit the open market.
Yardley has had to earn his spot every step of the way along his professional career, which began in the independent Pecos League in 2013 after he went undrafted out of Seattle University. Following seven outings at one of the lowest rungs of organized professional baseball in the United States, Yardley inked his first affiliated contract with the Padres and finished out that summer in the Arizona League. Only once in seven minor league seasons since has he posted an earned run average above 3.00, tallying 415.1 innings across 299 appearances with a cumulative 2.90 ERA. Yardley has spent parts of the last four years at the highest level of the minors, and this season for Triple-A El Paso he managed to work to a 2.83 ERA, accompanied by an eye-popping 41 DRA-, despite pitching with a juiced baseball in the already hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. No stranger to spanning multiple innings, Yardley logged 63.1 frames while appearing in 43 contests, recording four or more outs 20 times.
Despite years of sustained success down on the farm, Yardley had to wait until his seventh professional season to get a shot at the big leagues, likely because his is a profile that is no longer highly valued around the game. The side-arming right-hander works with a sinker and slider as his only two offerings, averaging a mere 86.3 MPH on the heater during his big league sample this season. He doesn’t miss bats, averaging 7.0 K/9 while climbing the minor league ladder, including a 7.4 K/9 rate in Triple-A this past season. But Yardley does limit free passes (2.0 BB/9 career) and induces grounders at an extremely high frequency (60%+ in every full season). He doesn’t give up many home runs (0.7 HR/9) and is generally skilled at limiting exit velocity and avoiding hard contact.
As one might predict, Yardley deals with some platoon issues because of his repertoire and arm slot. He held righties to a .585 OPS for El Paso in 2019, but lefties touched him up for a .748 OPS. The struggles against southpaws have been a recurring theme throughout his career, so he’s best utilized as more of a right-handed specialist. Sort of like the mirror of Alex Claudio, except that Yardley will make roughly the league minimum in 2020 and appears to have a full slate of three minor league options remaining.
Baseball has trended away from pitch-to-contact hurlers over the past several years, but not the Stearns regime. Yardley figures to serve as a shuttle arm for the team’s bullpen in 2020, with the chance to pitch himself into a more prominent role as team’s figure out how to best utilize the new 26-man roster configuration.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus, and Baseball-Reference