The Rangers are signing reliever Tyler Duffey to a minor league contract, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). The veteran righty was released by the Twins earlier this week. Darren Wolfson of SKOR North adds (on Twitter) that Duffey’s deal comes with multiple opt-out opportunities.
Duffey had spent a decade in the Minnesota organization, entering pro ball as a fifth-round pick in 2012. He reached the majors three years later, initially struggling as a starting pitcher before finding success upon moving to the bullpen. Duffey broke out in 2019, when he posted a 2.50 ERA through 57 2/3 innings. That came with a stellar 34.5% strikeout percentage and a tiny 5.9% walk rate, kicking off a three-year run in which he was quietly one of the better high-leverage relievers in the league.
The Rice product pitched to a sterling 1.88 ERA during 22 appearances in the abbreviated 2020 season, followed by a 3.18 mark over last year’s full schedule. Duffey’s strikeout and walk numbers went in the wrong direction last season, but that still marked a third straight solid campaign. He posted a 2.69 ERA over 144 innings between 2019-21, striking out 29.8% of batters faced while holding the opposition to a .200/.273/.316 slash line.
Minnesota surely hoped for more of the same this season, but Duffey hasn’t been able to consistently get on track in 2022. He owns a 4.91 ERA across 44 innings with a 21.1% strikeout rate that is well below the marks he’s posted in his best seasons. He’s also surrendered eight home runs and generated swinging strikes at an 11.1% clip that, while around the 11.7% league average for relievers, is about four points lower than Duffey’s 2019-20 peak. He’d allowed runs in three of his four most recent appearances before Minnesota let him go.
There’s no downside for the Rangers in taking a shot to see if Duffey can recapture his pre-2022 form. The Twins remain on the hook for the rest of his $3.8MM salary, and Texas would only owe him the prorated portion of the $700K league minimum if he makes the big league roster. (That’d be subtracted from the Twins payments). The 31-year-old is headed to free agency at the end of the season regardless, but he’ll be a late-season depth option for a Texas bullpen that ranks 11th in the majors with a 3.71 ERA.