Zach Duke Rumors
"I think very highly of my client," said Zack Greinke's agent to Brewers management when the two sides opened extension talks according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Greinke, of course, represents himself. The right-hander and his sense of humor will hire an agent at some point, but for now here are some links from around the league...
- The Astros announced that left-handed reliever Sergio Escalona will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the season. "This probably makes us think about [Zach] Duke’s role if he doesn’t win a spot in the rotation," said GM Jeff Luhnow to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart (Twitter link).
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told ESPN's Jim Bowden that he wants to sign Matt Garza long-term and build around the right-hander rather than trade him (Twitter link).
- "I hope I stay here in Kansas City," said Joakim Soria to MLB.com's Dick Kaegel. Soria will miss the season with Tommy John surgery, and the Royals hold an $8MM club option for his services in 2013. "I love this organization, I feel part of this family and I appreciate what they've done for me."
- "I needed a fresh start. I needed a new team," said Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie to ESPN's Jayson Stark about his trade from the Brewers. Lawrie feels Milwaukee tried to change his effusive personality, though GM Doug Melvin disagrees.
- John Grabow and Jamey Wright will earn $800K and $900K, respectively, if they make the Dodgers according to Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter links). Both pitchers have incentives based on appearances, maxing out at $500K (Wright) and $200K (Grabow).
The Astros signed left-hander Zach Duke to a minor league contract that includes an invitation to Spring Training, the team announced. Duke, a native of Clifton, Texas, spent the 2011 season with the Diamondbacks.
Duke, 28, posted a 4.93 ERA with 3.8 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 49.6% ground ball rate in 76 2/3 innings last year. The 2009 All-Star owns a 4.56 ERA with 4.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 49.0% ground ball rate in seven seasons with Arizona and Pittsburgh. SFX represents Duke.
The D'Backs announced that they exercised their sides of the mutual options for Henry Blanco and Willie Bloomquist, while declining their team options for Zach Duke and Aaron Hill (Twitter link). However, Bloomquist has declined his side of the mutual option and would like to work out a longer deal, according to MLB.com's Steve Gilbert (on Twitter).
Blanco's option is worth $1.15MM and includes a $250K buyout. It's not yet clear whether he'll return to Arizona for a second season. In 112 plate appearances in 2011, the 14-year veteran posted a .250/.330/.540 line with eight home runs. Bloomquist's option was worth $1.1MM. The 33-year-old played left field, shortstop and second base in 2011, while posting a .266/.317/.340 battling line in 381 plate appearances.
Hill posted an .878 OPS with the D'Backs after struggling in Toronto for a combined season line of .246/.299/.356. Though the D'Backs would like him back, his $8MM option was too much for GM Kevin Towers' liking. Hill's contract also included an $8MM team option for 2013. Duke posted a 4.93 ERA with 3.8 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 76 2/3 innings, so there was no doubt that the team would decline its $5.5MM club option in favor of the $750K buyout.
It's never too soon to begin looking ahead to the First-Year Player Draft. Here's more on a potential first-round pick and a couple other items of note out of the NL West ...
- Padres GM Jed Hoyer inquired several times last season with the Marlins on the availability of center fielder Cameron Maybin, writes Corey Brock of MLB.com. Of course, the Padres eventually got their man in Maybin, whose memorable early-career homer off Rogers Clemens feels like a lifetime ago despite the fact that he's only 23. In acquiring Maybin, Hoyer and the Padres felt like they were getting a guy who is still younger than many minor league prospects and could have room to grow after he was perhaps rushed to the big leagues at just 20 years old. Plus, "His skill-set sets up very well for our style of play, our ballpark and our division," manager Bud Black told Brock.
- Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers acquired Zach Duke from the Pirates in November because he thought the left-hander could benefit from a change of scenery, blogs Steve Gilbert of MLB.com. Towers added that he covets lefties and good athletes, and said that despite Duke's dip in production in 2010, "his stuff didn't really deteriorate over the last couple years." Duke, non-tendered by the Bucs prior to being dealt to Arizona, posted a 5.72 ERA in 29 starts for the Pirates in '10 but has a career ERA of 4.54.
- The Rockies may have deja vu all over again: Dante Bichette Jr., the son of former Blake Street Bomber Dante Bichette, is a projected first-round draft pick, according to the Denver Post. Bichette Jr., projected as a third baseman in pro ball, has signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Georgia, according to the Post, but if a team is willing to select him in the first round of a draft that is shaping up to be historically deep, there's always the chance he could be lured away by big money. You may remember Bichette Jr. from the 2005 Little League World Series, in which he starred for his team from Maitland, Fla. The Rockies, by the way, have the 20th pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
Valdez, 26 in March, tossed 20 innings for Arizona this year as a rookie. He also did his second Triple-A stint, posting a 5.90 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, and 1.1 HR/9 in 97 2/3 innings. Heading into the '09 season, Baseball America ranked Valdez seventh among Diamondbacks prospects. They called his changeup "a legitimate plus pitch" and labeled him a potential back-rotation starter.
The Diamondbacks acquired Duke from the Pirates in November after he'd been designated for assignment. I'm guessing the Pirates' return was contingent on the D'Backs hammering out a deal with the arbitration eligible lefty, which they did for a $4.25MM guarantee.
The Diamondbacks avoided arbitration with Zach Duke by signing the left-hander to a one-year contract with a mutual option for 2012, reports MLB.com's Steve Gilbert. Duke will earn $3.5MM next season (via Gilbert on Twitter), and Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets that the mutual option is worth $5.5MM with a $750K buyout. Piecoro adds that if Duke pitches a certain number of innings, the mutual option for 2012 could be worth $7MM. Duke is represented by SFX.
Duke and the team finalized the deal just before yesterday's non-tender deadline, and the left-hander would've in fact been non-tendered had the two sides not come to terms. Arizona acquired Duke in a trade from the Pirates on November 24. As D'Backs GM Kevin Towers tells Gilbert, the club sees Duke as their fifth starter.
The Diamondbacks have acquired left-hander Zach Duke from the Pirates in exchange for a player to be named later, according to an Arizona team press release. The player to be named later is "a mid-level prospect" who can't be named due to the roster freeze leading up to the Rule 5 draft, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. If this player is actually taken in the Rule 5 draft, Piecoro says the Bucs and Snakes "have agreed to other players" to be dealt to Pittsburgh.
Duke, 27, was designated for assignment by Pittsburgh last week following a rough 2010 that saw the southpaw post a 5.72 ERA in 29 starts for the Bucs. A lifetime Pirate, Duke has a career 4.54 ERA in 160 games (159 of them starts) and a 1.88 K/BB ratio in six major league seasons. He provides Arizona with a veteran innings-eating option for their rotation, though his career-high 1.4 HR/9 last season might be of greater concern if he's going to be pitching at Chase Field.
Piecoro reports that the D'Backs will try to sign Duke to a contract worth less than his $4.3MM salary in 2010, and if the two sides can't come to an agreement by the tendering deadline, Duke will be non-tendered. (Both Twitter links)
- MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli reports that the O's continue to have discussions with Koji Uehara, Ty Wigginton, and Cesar Izturis. The issue with the first two is contract length, and the fate of the last two is tied to what kind of bat the team brings in.
- Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun wonders if Victor Martinez is exactly what the Orioles need. He says that "by all accounts," Peter Angelos, Andy MacPhail, and Buck Showalter are high on V-Mart and he is "one of their top offseason priorities."
- MASNSports.com's Roch Kubatko speculates that Jon Garland could again be connected to Baltimore, as he has been for the last two offseasons. He doesn't see either Zach Duke or Manny Ramirez fitting in with the O's.
The Pirates have designated Zach Duke, Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young for assignment, according to a team press release. The moves do not come as a surprise, as MLBTR pegged all three as non-tender candidates earlier this month.
Following a season where he posted a 5.72 ERA in 29 starts, Duke was seen as a non-tender candidate given that he could've earned a $5MM salary through arbitration this winter. In six seasons in Pittsburgh, Duke delivered a 4.54 ERA in 160 games (all but one of them a start) with a 1.92 K/BB ratio and a 4.7 K/9 rate. Duke was an All-Star in 2009, has a couple of solid seasons under his belt and is left-handed, so it's likely he'll find work at the back end of another team's rotation. MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch reports that the Pirates tried to negotiate a new deal with Duke and also explored trade possibilities before finally designating the southpaw.
LaRoche joined the Pirates as part of the big Manny Ramirez/Jason Bay three-team deal in July 2008. He was Pittsburgh's regular third baseman in 2009 but became expendable after the Bucs called up Pedro Alvarez to man the hot corner. Once seen as a promising infielder in the Dodgers organization (he was ranked 19th among all major league prospects by Baseball America in both 2006 and 2007), LaRoche has a .224/.304/.338 line in 1228 career plate appearances with L.A. and Pittsburgh.
Young is another former Dodger prospect who joined the Bucs in April 2009. Young has an impressive career OPS of .876 in eight minor league seasons, but has never been able to find regular playing time at the major league level. His line in two seasons with the Pirates: .255/.312/.393 in 595 plate appearances, with time spent at second base, third base, and the outfield corners.
Last year, Zach Duke represented the Pirates at the All-Star Game, but after another poor outing, he has become a non-tender candidate. The 27-year-old leads the league in losses for the second consecutive season and while won-loss records don't mean much, Duke has also posted a career-high 5.78 ERA in 141.2 innings.
Duke makes $4.3MM this year, which means he won't be cheap if the Pirates offer arbitration. Even a modest raise would give the lefty a $5MM salary in 2011, which is roughly what Vicente Padilla, Brett Myers and Doug Davis signed for last winter. The Pirates will have to be prepared to pay Duke as well as established starters coming off better seasons if they offer arbitration.
But in spite of the ugly ERA and loss total, there's some hope for Duke. His 5.7 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 are respectable and he appears to be the victim of bad luck. No MLB pitcher who has as many innings as Duke has seen a higher percentage of batted balls fall in behind him for hits. Opponents have a .351 average on balls in play against Duke, which is well above his career mark. With better luck and potentially better defense, he could have a lower ERA.
It's also worth noting that only one MLB pitcher with as many innings as Duke has seen a higher percentage of fly balls leave the yard. Home runs haven't been a massive problem for Duke before, and if his homer levels return to normal, the rest of his numbers would look better, too. At this point, his stats don't look good, and we can't simply write this season off in the name of bad luck. Duke has not pitched well and his manager appears to be losing confidence in him.
The Brewers had interest in Duke last winter, according to FOX Sports. They're one of many teams likely to add starters this winter, so Duke would draw some interest if the Pirates non-tender him. Uncertainty surrounds Pittsburgh's 2011 rotation, partly because of Duke. The Pirates must decide whether to non-tender Duke and risk losing him to a rival team or offer him $5MM or so after a disappointing performance. I'm guessing the Pirates non-tender the left-hander and see if they can bring him back at a discount, but let's see what you think: Click here to take the survey and here to view the results.