The Yankees have agreed to a deal with right-hander Tyler Duffey, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post (Twitter link). A source tells MLBTR that it’s a minor league contract for Duffey, so he won’t go directly onto the 40-man roster. So long as it’s finalized/official prior to midnight, he’d be eligible for their postseason roster. Duffey, a client of the Ballengee Group, opted out of a minor league deal with the Rangers earlier this week.
It’s been a tough season for Duffey, who was released by the Twins — the only organization he’d known to that point in his career — earlier this summer. Once a standout setup man in Minnesota, where he pitched to a 2.31 ERA with a 34.2% strikeout rate against just a 6.1% walk rate in 81 2/3 innings from 2019-20, Duffey saw his results take a step back in 2021 before they completely cratered in 2022.
Duffey, 31, still notched a tidy 3.18 ERA in ’21 but did so with diminished velocity and strikeout/walk rates that aggressively trended in the wrong direction (24% and 11%, respectively). Things unraveled entirely this season, as Duffey was hammered for a 4.91 ERA and allowed an average of 1.64 homers per nine innings pitched, losing a high-leverage spot with the Twins and primarily being relegated to lower-leverage work prior to being cut loose. Duffey did toss five shutout frames with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate during his brief stop with Texas, albeit with an unsightly 5-to-4 K/BB ratio.
This year’s 92.3 mph average fastball velocity is Duffey’s lowest since he became a full-time reliever, and his 21.1% strikeout rate is his lowest mark since 2018. To Duffey’s credit, both his 11.1% swinging-strike rate and 32.4% opponents’ chase rate on pitches off the plate are both right in line with the 2022 league averages. He’s struggled, however, to get ahead in counts and has paid the price for it; at his peak, Duffey threw a first-pitch strike to just shy of 68% of his opponents. He’s done so at just a 60% clip in 2022 — the worst full-season mark of his career. Working behind in the count more than ever before while pitching with a fastball that’s down nearly two miles per hour from its 2019 peak hasn’t been a recipe for success.
That said, there’s little harm in taking a low-cost look at Duffey just before rosters expand. The former fifth-round pick isn’t far removed from being a very solid late-inning piece for the Twins, and he’ll only cost the Yankees the prorated league minimum for any time spent on the Major League roster. That amount would be subtracted from the $793K still owed to him by Minnesota, but the Twins will remain on the hook for the vast majority of what’s yet to be paid out on this season’s $3.8MM salary for Duffey, who’ll be a free agent at season’s end.
Duffey is the third right-hander to join the Yankees organization on a minor league pact in the past 24 hours. Both Chi Chi Gonzalez and Jacob Barnes agreed to minor league contracts with the Yanks just last night. Because they signed prior to Sept. 1, any of that trio would be postseason-eligible, although they’d technically need league approval to be added to the roster as an injury replacement if they’re not on the 40-man roster before midnight tonight.