Zach Duke Rumors

AL Notes: Jays, Astros, Anderson, White Sox, Kluber, Twins, Bourjos

The heavily backloaded nature of the Blue Jays‘ deal with Russell Martin leaves the club with additional potential payroll capacity for 2015, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes. It is worth noting that Toronto likely feels comfortable pushing cash into the 2016-19 segments of the contract because, as is apparent from my recent post regarding future obligations, the team had very little on the books after this year.

Here’s the latest from the American League:

  • The Astros have checked in with Brett Anderson‘s representatives, tweets Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The oft-injured, but generally excellent lefty makes his home in Houston and could represent an interesting upside play for the rising Astros.
  • White Sox GM Rick Hahn has an extensive history with Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, notes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. As Hayes explains, the two even managed to pull of a trade for the injured Jesse Crain at the 2013 trade deadline. While it remains to be seen whether a deal will be worked out involving shortstop Alexei Ramirez, it seems fair to believe that all reasonable possibilities will be explored between those two clubs.
  • Of course, the White Sox already made an interesting move earlier today by locking up southpaw Zach Duke to a three-year, $15MM pact. Hahn says he is pleased but already “on to the next [deal] now,” as Hayes reports“It’s an important get, one we’re all very happy about,” said Hahn. “But we’re not deluding ourselves that we’re by any means finished addressing our needs both in the bullpen or elsewhere.”
  • A move by the Indians to push for an extension with Cy Young winner Corey Kluber would not be surprising; indeed, I profiled Kluber as an extension candidate back in August. But the club has yet to initiate talks, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).
  • With the Twins still lacking a clear solution in center field for 2015, Peter Bourjos of the Cardinals is a name to keep an eye on, according to a tweet from Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. MLBTR’s Steve Adams has been one notable advocate of such a move for Minnesota.

White Sox Sign Zach Duke

12:36pm: The White Sox have announced the signing of Duke to a three-year, $15MM contract. Duke will earn $4.5MM in 2015, $5MM in 2016 and $5.5MM in 2017, according to the team’s release.

11:45am: Duke’s contract is a multi-year deal, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.

11:36am: The White Sox will announce the signing of left-handed reliever Zach Duke later today, reports Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com (Twitter link). The 31-year-old Duke is a client of Relativity Sports.

Zach Duke

Duke quietly had a dominant season in the Brewers’ bullpen in 2014, pitching to an electric 2.45 ERA with 11.4 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a 57.7 percent ground-ball rate. Opposing lefties hit just .198/.267/.302 against Duke last year, though righties couldn’t figure him out either, mustering a mere .242/.288/.298 against the well-traveled lefty.

Duke first surfaced in the Majors with the Pirates in 2005, finishing fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting on the strength of a sparkling 1.81 ERA in 84 1/3 innings out of the Pirates’ rotation. He made 145 starts for the Bucs over the next five seasons, twice reaching 200 innings, but Duke was never able to replicate that early success and served as an innings eater with Pittsburgh in the rotation, posting a pedestrian 4.80 ERA in 879 2/3 frames.

Following his stint with the Pirates, Duke bounced around from the D’Backs to the Nats to the Reds before landing on his feet with the Brewers and turning in his brilliant season. With Milwaukee, Duke’s velocity stepped up a tick to an average of 89.7 mph, and he began to throw more sliders and more curveballs at the expense of his changeup and four-seam fastball. With the Brewers, he relied primarily on a two-seamer, his slider and his curve, and he also dropped his arm slot to feature more of a sidearm delivery. He’ll look to continue to benefit from those adjustments in a White Sox bullpen that had a strong need for lefty arms.

Duke will slot into manager Robin Ventura’s bullpen and quickly become the top left-handed option, with Scott Snodgress and Eric Surkamp currently representing the only other southpaws on the team’s 40-man roster. He’ll join the returning Jake Petricka, Daniel Webb, Javy Guerra, Zach PutnamNate Jones underwent Tommy John surgery in July. That young group is largely unproven, and reports have indicated that the Sox would be on the lookout for multiple bullpen arms, so it won’t be a surprise to see GM Rick Hahn pursue further bullpen upgrades.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


NL Central Notes: McCutchen, Brewers, Cards, Wada

Earlier today, MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk posted divisional roundups for the NL East and AL Central. Now, let’s take a look at the news and notes from the NL Central:



Article XX(B) Free Agents Update: Tuesday

Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement contains a provision that allows certain free agents who are signed to minor league contracts to receive a $100K retention bonus if they are not on the team's 25-man roster or the Major League disabled list five days prior to the season.

Free agents who qualify for this distinction are those who have at least six years of Major League service time and had a Major League contract expire at the end of the previous season, but signed a minor league deal ten or more days prior to Opening Day.

MLBTR has confirmed with MLB that the deadline for teams to decide on these players is today at 11am central time. By the deadline, teams with these players in camp need to decide whether to:

  • Add the player to their 25-man roster or Major League disabled list (or agree to do so in writing).
  • Grant the player his outright release from the minor league contract so that he may pursue opportunities with other teams.
  • Pay the player a $100K retention bonus to keep him in the organization beyond the deadline and send him to the minors.

Here's the latest news from around the league on Article XX(B) signees and their roster statuses with their respective teams (newest updates on top).  

  • Delmon Young receives a $100K bonus from the Orioles, tweets Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
  • The Rockies have decided to pay righty Nick Masset a $100K retention bonus to keep him in the organization, rather than releasing him or guaranteeing him an active roster spot, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com.
  • As posted already, Endy Chavez and Humberto Quintero of the Mariners have been released rather than receiving the roster bonus to be held in the minors.
  • The Indians have announced that DH Jason Giambi will be placed on the DL retroactive to March 21, meaning that the team will need to add him to its 40-man roster. 
  • John McDonald has been added to the Angels' 40-man roster and will be the club's utility infielder on Opening Day, reports Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter). The club has already released its three other Article XX(B) free agents.
  • The Mets have elected to pay pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka a $100K retention bonus rather than guaranteeing him an Opening Day roster spot or releasing him, the club announced on Twitter. Matsuzaka, who signed as an Article XX(B) free agent, will apparently compete with Jenrry Mejia for the fifth and final rotation slot right up until the start of the season.
  • Zach Duke has been informed that he has made the Brewers, tweets MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. Duke will be the third lefty (and, potentially, long man) in the pen.
  • Earlier today we learned that Jason Kubel would make the Twins Opening Day roster.

Brewers Notes: Attanasio, Garza, Lohse, Duke

Earlier, we learned that the Brewers are reportedly considering whether to offer young shortstop Jean Segura a contract extension, and if so on what terms. MLBTR's Steve Adams recently broke down the team's offseason moves. Here are more notes out of Milwaukee:

  • In a fascinating interview, Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio spoke with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports about a host of topics, including the inside stories of his purchase of the club and the signings of Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza. Explaining that the club has gone away from its once "very rigid budgets" in favor of general fiscal responsibility while stretching the budget when it makes sense, Attanasio said that the Garza signing was a reflection of the organization's desire to add an impact pitcher at the MLB level. The ball got rolling during a conversation at Ryan Braun's wedding between the owner and agent Nez Balelo. Per Attanasio: "So the next morning, I called [GM] Doug [Melvin] and said, 'How about Matt Garza?' Doug's first question was, 'Isn't he too expensive?'"
  • Attanasio explains that the Lohse signing came together quite differently; afterward, he says, agent Scott Boras remarked that he'd set a personal record in call volume to ownership to complete the deal. Attanasio said the complicated decision came down to his desire to "bring up the quality of the product we were giving our fan base," even if it was not going to change the team's destiny for 2013.
  • In the case of Lohse, moreover, Attanasio saw a chance to take advantage of a reluctant market. He rightly echoed his GM in noting that the value of draft picks lies in the drafted players' trade value as well as their ultimate MLB production. But, he indicated, their value is not limitless: "What happened with Kyle, the new CBA had this rule about giving up a draft choice. And giving up a draft choice evolved in our sport from giving up a lottery ticket to giving up your first born." As I wrote in two recent pieces – contextualizing and assessing the qualifying offer system — organizational reluctance to give up picks, potentially even going beyond teams' internal valuations, could have a major impact on how a compensation free agent's market develops. 
  • Now that the club has put together a potentially solid rotation, and overseen the return of Ryan Braun, Attanasio says the club is looking to be a winner, tweets David Laurila of Fangraphs from the ongoing SABR Analytics Conference in Phoenix. The club is prepared to be aggressive at the trade deadline rather than adhering to a budget, Attanasio indicated. 
  • Meanwhile, down at camp, southpaw Zach Duke is making a good impression as he looks to make the squad as a non-roster invitee, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel"He's doing a great job of letting us know that he's definitely a guy we should look at," said manager Ron Roenicke. "He's got better stuff than I thought, maybe because I saw him so much as a starter. Now that he's a reliever, maybe his stuff is different. I like what I see." Indeed, Duke has continued to work on honing his repertoire for a pen role. Of course, with Will Smith now clearly locked in as the top lefty in the pen after losing his chance at a rotation spot through the Garza signing, the well-travelled 30-year-old still faces an uphill battle to crack the Opening Day roster.

Brewers Sign Zach Duke

The Brewers have agreed to a minor league deal with lefty Zach Duke, reports MLB.com's Adam McCalvy (via Twitter). The deal includes a Spring Training invitation.

Duke, 30, struggled early last year with the Nationals, posting a 8.71 ERA in his first 20 2/3 innings. But the southpaw turned things around upon joining the Reds, allowing less than an earned run per nine during his 10 2/3 innings in Cincinnati. Since losing his job as an everyday starter after the 2010 season, Duke has bounced around the league as a middle reliever.


Reds Sign Zach Duke

The Reds have signed Zach Duke to a minor league deal, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. According to the Triple-A International League transactions page, Duke was assigned to Triple-A Louisville, and catcher Konrad Schmidt was released to clear roster space.

The Nationals re-signed Duke to a Major League deal this past December, but the former Rookie of the Year candidate was ultimately designated for assignment and released after allowing 20 runs in 20 2/3 innings. Despite his left-handedness, the 30-year-old Duke has actually allowed a .386/.413/.477 line to opposing left-handers from 2012-13. He's walked just two of the 46 lefties he's faced though and hasn't allowed a home run.

The 28-year-old Schmidt spent his entire professional career with the D-backs prior to this season. He reached the Majors on two separate occasions but only saw 17 plate appearances. He has a career .271/.323/.409 batting line in 218 games at the Triple-A level.


Nationals Release Zach Duke

The Nationals have released left-hander Zach Duke, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post (on Twitter).

Duke, 30, was designated for assignment last week after posting an 8.71 ERA in 20 2/3 frames for the Nationals this season. He was an asset for the team in the final month of 2012, allowing just two runs in 13 2/3 innings of work out of the bullpen in September. The former Rookie of the Year candidate has just a 4.84 ERA with 4.5 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 990 2/3 innings since his tremendous 2005 debut campaign.


Quick Hits: Biogenesis, Ortiz, Crain, Reed, Diaz

If Major League Baseball is really hoping to suspend the 20+ players involved in the Biogenesis scandal, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal thinks the league will need more evidence than just the word of clinic founder Tony Bosch.  It will be too easy, Rosenthal argues, for the players' representatives to claim that Bosch lacks credibility and that he is only naming names to avoid possible criminal prosecution and getting himself sued by the league.

Here are some news items from around the sport…

  • "To be honest with you, all those years I got to free agency, I never thought about going somewhere else," David Ortiz tells WEEI.com's Alex Speier.  "I feel like I'm a big part of these ball clubs. I feel like what I was asking for wasn't anything they couldn't give me. You look into situations, and I never had the feeling that I was going to go somewhere else, to be honest with you."  Ortiz is off to a big start this season and is making good on the two-year, $26MM deal he signed to remain with the Red Sox last offseason.
  • Jesse Crain and Addison Reed both aren't worried about possibly becoming trade bait this summer if the White Sox decide to rebuild, MLB.com's Scott Merkin reports.  Merkin notes that the veteran Crain is the likelier of the two to be moved, and I'd argue that Chicago would only move Reed if they received a knockout offer.
  • Aledmys Diaz is playing with a Mexican League team this summer and during the winter, MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez reports.  The Cuban shortstop hopes to sign with a Major League team in February.  Diaz drew attention from at least 10 teams last winter, though at least one team (the Twins) thought Diaz's asking price was "too high" and MLB was investigating whether Diaz was really 23 years old.
  • Nationals manager Davey Johnson told reporters (including Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington) that he expects both Henry Rodriguez and Zach Duke to be claimed by other teams.  The two relievers were both designated for assignment by the Nats today.

Nationals Designate Zach Duke For Assignment

The Nationals designated lefty Zach Duke for assignment, according to a team press release.  In a series of moves, the Nats also designated reliever Henry Rodriguez, reinstated Jayson Werth from the DL, placed Danny Espinosa on the DL, recalled Anthony Rendon, and selected the contract of Ian Krol.

Duke, 30, posted an 8.71 ERA, 4.8 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 0.87 HR/9, and 54.4% groundball rate in 20 2/3 innings this year.  He faced more right-handed hitters than left, but those in those 30 plate appearances from lefties they hit .448/.467/.552 against him.  The Nats had re-signed Duke to a Major League deal worth $700K in December.

Duke was drafted in the 20th round by the Pirates in '01, and finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting when he came up and posted a 1.81 ERA in 14 starts in '05.  He also snagged an All-Star nod in '09.

Krol was acquired from the A's in March to complete the three-way trade that sent Mike Morse to Seattle, John Jaso to Oakland, and A.J. Cole to the Nats.  The 22-year-old lefty was dominant in Double-A this year, with a 0.69 ERA, 10.0 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, and one home run allowed in 26 innings.