The Reds are engaged “in serious discussions” with free agent southpaw Zach Duke, according to C. Trent Rosecrans and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). The likelihood of a deal coming together is not yet known.
It remains an active winter for the Cincinnati front office, which increasingly seems to have created an opportunity to compete in what could be a tightly packed NL Central division. Among other things, the club has targeted lefty relief assets, having already agreed to minors deals with Buddy Boshers and Ian Krol.
Bringing in Duke would give the Cincy bullpen a much-needed option against opposing lefty hitters. Though Amir Garrett showed well in the pen last year, he’s still not fully polished and actually has been just as effective against righties at the MLB level. Otherwise, the club stands to rely upon the above-noted minor-league signees along with Wandy Peralta and Brandon Finnegan, both of whom are looking to bounce back from rough 2018 campaigns.
Duke had his own stumbles last year, particularly after joining the Mariners in a mid-season trade. He ended the season with a 4.15 ERA in 52 innings, with 8.8 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9. But Duke surrendered only a single long ball on the year and checked in with a monster 59.4% groundball rate. He also held opposing lefties to a meager .220/.283/.319 batting line.