The Rangers announced this evening that left-hander Danny Duffy and outfielders Clint Frazier* and Travis Jankowski have signed minor league deals with non-roster invitations to big league camp. Texas also confirmed previously-reported minor league deals for Reyes Moronta and Ian Kennedy.
Duffy is the most notable addition as a 12-year MLB veteran. A longtime starter with the Royals, he was a key part of Kansas City’s pennant-winning clubs in 2014-15 (put together by former Royals GM and current Texas special advisor Dayton Moore). Duffy was at his best during the first of those two seasons, when he provided Kansas City 149 1/3 innings of 2.53 ERA ball over 31 outings.
The veteran hurler posted mid-rotation production through 2017 before a trio of 4.00-plus ERA showings in 2018-20. He looked on his way to a bounceback in 2021, working to a personal-best 2.51 mark in 61 innings during the season’s first half. Duffy unfortunately then hit the injured list with a flexor strain in his forearm. The Dodgers acquired him at that summer’s deadline while he was on the shelf with an eye towards a late-season return. Duffy had a setback and didn’t pitch for Los Angeles before hitting free agency.
Over the offseason, Duffy underwent surgery that was expected to sideline him into June. The Dodgers nevertheless rolled the dice again, signing him to a $3MM deal with a 2023 club option. The hope was he would return as a reliever for the second half while building back to a starter’s workload for the following season. Yet again, those plans were dashed by a summer setback that ended his season. The Dodgers declined his option and sent him back to the open market.
While he spent a year and a half with the L.A. organization, Duffy has never thrown an MLB pitch for a team other than the Royals. He and the Rangers will look to change that in 2023, though he’ll first have to earn his way back onto an MLB roster. Duffy hasn’t appeared in an MLB game since July 2021 and has just 117 1/3 innings over the last three seasons thanks to the abbreviated 2020 schedule and his recent injuries. That raises an obvious question about how large a workload he can shoulder, with a relief or hybrid starter role perhaps under consideration. Regardless of the specific goal the organization has in mind, there’s obvious appeal in bringing in a respected veteran with a career 3.95 ERA in 234 MLB outings to gauge his form in Spring Training.
Frazier, now 28, was the fifth overall pick of the 2013 draft by Cleveland. Lauded for his electric bat speed and significant power potential, the right-handed hitter was traded to the Yankees as a prospect. He appeared among Baseball America’s list of the 50 most talented minor leaguers in 2014, ’16 and ’17. Frazier got off to a solid start, albeit in sporadic playing time, over his first four years with the Yankees.
Between his MLB debut late in 2017 and the end of the shortened season, he tallied 589 plate appearances across 160 games. In the rough equivalent of one full season, Frazier hit 32 doubles and 24 home runs with a .258/.331/.475 line. Despite some defensive miscues and a higher than average propensity for strikeouts, he looked like a potential regular right fielder thanks to his power and plate discipline.
Things have gone downhill over the past two campaigns though. Frazier limped to a .186/.317/.317 line across 218 plate appearances for the Yankees in 2021. He walked at a massive 14.7% clip but only connected on five home runs. More concerning than his on-field struggles, Frazier battled symptoms of vertigo and missed the season’s second half. The Yankees released him at the end of that year.
Frazier inked a $1.5MM contract with the Cubs at the start of last offseason. He only got into 19 MLB games, missing some time with appendicitis. The Cubs designated him for assignment in mid-June. Frazier went unclaimed on waivers and spent the rest of the year at Triple-A Iowa on an outright assignment. He had a disastrous .190/.283/.302 showing with an untenable 34.7% strikeout percentage in 66 games there before hitting minor league free agency.
Texas will hope that a change of scenery can help him rediscover some of his early-career success. Frazier still has a minor league option year remaining, meaning the Rangers could send him back to Triple-A Round Rock even if he lands a 40-man roster spot at some point.
Jankowski, 31, has played for five different clubs while suiting up at the major league level in each of the past eight seasons. A left-handed hitter, he’s walked at a quality 10.4% clip against an average 22.6% strikeout rate in his career. Jankowski’s solid strike zone awareness has been negated by a lack of power, as he’s connected on just nine homers in a little more than 1200 plate appearances.
The Stony Brooks product has gotten a decent amount of run as a speed and defense oriented depth outfielder despite lacking much offensive punch. He played in 44 games last season (all but one of those as a member of the Mets), primarily as a defensive substitute and pinch runner. Jankowski has stolen 72 bases in 470 career games and can play all three outfield spots. Public defensive metrics have graded him positively at all three positions, making him a potential center field depth option behind Leody Taveras in Arlington.
* While Frazier played the 2022 season under the name Jackson Frazier, the Rangers announced his signing as Clint Frazier in their press release.