'Zach Duke & Other Stuff' Offseason Roundtable

One can never have enough roundtables. In the wake of the Zach Duke signing, Billy Butler leaving the division, and more Alexei Ramirez trade rumors, the staff of The Catbird Seat typed a bit in a Google Doc that James titled "LOOGY LOOGY LOOGY"

Zach Duke is signed for three years, $15 million

James: As far as first shots of the battle go, this is a well-placed Derringer bullet.

The White Sox were hopeless in terms of left-handed relief for all of 2014. They wound up DFA’ing both Donnie Veal and Scott Downs, and out of options, just tolerated Eric Surkamp being dreadful for much of the year until he showed some signs of life with barely weeks left in the season. Buying into a few innings of Surkamp being real and standing pat would be doubling down on the riskiness of last season and then some.

Duke has all of one year as a dominant reliever under his belt, but reportedly came to his gaudy K/BB numbers (74/17 in 58.2 IP) through reportedly significant changes in his arm slot). His groundball rate portends success in U.S. Cellular Field and he lacked a significant platoon split, despite his delivery, which could uncomplicate things a bit for Robin Ventura.

I try not to read too much into the order of signings, but scooping up Duke now possibly avoids post-Andrew Miller hysteria in a left-handed reliever market short on real options.

Now, the only question is if the Sox paid and committed way too much to Zach Duke.

The terms of the deal seem to fall in line with the generally disappointing returns of free agency. I would have liked a two-year commitment, we got three instead. $3 million or $4 million AAV would have drawn few complaints. We got $5 million.

Early praise of the deal dissipated a bit as the terms were revealed, but there’s been chatter about how TV revenue is going to stretch everything to the edges of sanity that this makes sense. Duke doesn’t have much of a track record, but neither does Andrew Miller being able to throw a strike, and the proposed commitments for him are about to chase the moon a lot harder.

Matt: The Miller comparison is a good one. The main complaint I see about Duke is his overall body of work and then the one good year. That’s pretty similar to what complaints should probably be for Miller and he’s gonna cost a whole hell of a lot more.

And LHP bullpen pitcher isn’t automatically LOOGY territory, which is nice.


Matt: At some point I’d think the fan base ages out of that kind of stuff but then Ditka.



Nick: How did we talk this much about 2014 lefties and not mention Scott “Terrible” Snodgress?

The thing that makes me confident about Duke is that he was a somewhat effective starter for a while before being a reliever. Makes sense that he could handle relief for a while.

Collin: I think health pending, we can count on Duke being not terrible, which is a positive. Even if he’s not as good as he was in 2014, I don’t see him being terrible to the point where you can’t throw him out there.

James: I think I didn’t bring up Snodgress because he was really bad and it would inconceivably irresponsible to count on any production from him? Duke might deserve a higher honor than LOOGY, but I think people get what I mean. His handedness is crucial. The Sox were rolling out Surkamp out there to handle high-level lefty bat, when they could just wait for him to miss with a 89 mph fastball in an awful location. If Duke allows Ventura to attack an inning with two lefties sandwiching a righty without flinching, that just makes him better at the same function, really.

Matt: With that out of the way and all of us accepting it, are we coming to terms with the possibility of Alexei Ramirez getting traded to the Dodgers?

Collin: It’s not going to be for Matt Kemp, James.

Matt: Matt Kemp in the outfield could be neat, I guess, but he’s 30, expensive, and injury prone. Doesn’t do much for the whole theme of their acquisitions.

Collin: Joc Pederson ain’t happening. I think their infatuation with him is what prevented them from acquiring David Price at the deadline.

Matt: Whose infatuation?

Collin: LA’s. Maybe infatuation was the wrong word. It’s just kind of telling that, as a team with seemingly unlimited money and a plethora of outfielders, they seem like they’re not going to give him up for anything.

Matt: Yes but this is a different group of decision makers than it was at the trade deadline.

Collin: That’s a good point that I hadn’t considered.

Nick: Other thing with Joc Pederson is that, although he is a legit CF, he also has posted his gaudy numbers in the PCL and so who knows?

Collin: Unrelated to anything, but Oakland just signed Billy Butler.

Matt: Somebody was gonna, I guess. So long as it’s not the White Sox, have fun.

Collin: 3 years, $30 million. Couldn’t they have convinced Adam Dunn to not retire for less than that?

Matt: Would certainly seem worth trying. Kind of early in the offseason to snap up Billy Butler in my opinion but they must like something about him. His BBQ sauce, perhaps.

James: Moving on to another park where it doesn’t matter that he can’t hit home runs. Three years, though. What if he’s toast? Power spikes early, per some FG study I read four years ago.

The Kemp idea come from a Mariners fan on Twitter who’s usually sharp (@AntsInWa, since I’ve stalker-followed all of Nick’s Weird Twitter crew (I also almost called Nick “Nate” just now)) proposing

Dodgers get: Alexei Ramirez

Mariners get: Matt Kemp and cash

White Sox get: Michael Saunders, Roenis Elias and Brad Miller

Collin: You’re stealing the thunder from my clickbait piece for the morning.

James: I wasn’t going to bring it up!

Matt: That’s a boring trade for the White Sox.

James: Exactly, it’s relative fairness is overshadowed by its boringness.

The cold comfort of ‘Add up the WAR.’

Collin: If the Dodgers aren’t going to give up Joc, would they give up Corey Seager? I know it’s mostly silly to assume a team will give up a top-level prospect for a 33-year-old SS, but you’ve got to start somewhere with the conversation, right?

James: I bet they wouldn’t! Seager is more valuable than Joc.


Conversations don't always reach a climactic endpoint.


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