Well, it looks like the Twins are interested in filling your Christmas stocking as well as they’re reportedly close to signing 34-year old veteran lefthander Zach Duke, which was first reported by KFAN’s Paul Lambert (a.k.a. Meat Sauce) and later confirmed by Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. The terms of the contract are currently unknown.
EDIT: Darren Wolfson reports that the contract will likely be for one year and around $1.5-2 million.
SECOND EDIT: Now Darren Wolfson reports that it’s going to be slightly over $2 million.
Duke has been in the majors since 2005 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and has played with six different teams since 2011. He was originally a soft-tossing lefty that relied on good control and keeping the ball on the ground, but he was never much more than a back-of-the-rotation starter. Duke was a swingman in 2011 and became a full-time reliever starting in 2012, but it wasn’t until 2014 with the Brewers where he found his stride. Duke appeared in 74 ballgames (58 2⁄3 innings) with a 2.45 ERA and struck out over 31% of hitters faced while inducing grounders nearly 58% of the time, both career highs.
Duke did have Tommy John surgery towards the end of the 2016 season, but he bounced back quickly and managed to make 27 appearances for the St. Louis Cardinals this past season. Utilizing both a sidearm and three-quarters arm angle, he has been exceptionally tough on lefthanded hitters since 2014 and should help out Taylor Rogers in the late innings. Additionally, Duke’s presence on the roster likely means fewer innings for Buddy Boshers (though Boshers does have a career .621 OPS and .270 wOBA allowed against lefthanders in his career).
In summary, this is not a flashy signing but is a cheap under-the-radar acquisition that quietly improves the team. Duke will be expected to retire tough lefties at the end of games and will let the Twins keep Rogers in a setup role, plus it will allow the team to keep plenty of cash available if they continue to pursue Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta.