It’s a position player signing! Well, a minor league signing. But he’s got a Major League history! Well, not in 2020. But solid seasons before that! Some!
Welcome to Chicago (sorta), Matt Duffy:
The #Cubs sign infielder Matt Duffy to a minor-league deal that will pay him $1 million if he makes their big-league team with $500,000 in incentives. He was in the #Rangers and #Yankees organizations last season.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 21, 2020
You’ll undoubtedly remember Duffy from his time with the Giants (as well as the Cubs passing interest in him when he was with the Rays), particularly 2015, when he finished as the runner up to Kris Bryant for NL Rookie of the Year honors. That season, Duffy finished with 4.4 WAR over 149 games, after slashing .295/.334/.428 (113 wRC+). Unfortunately, he hasn’t quite been as good since, having his best post-rookie season back in 2018:
With that said, Duffy, 30 next month, generally plays high quality infield defense all over. If you dig deeper into his stats, you’ll find that he’s a righty who’s actually carrying reverse splits for his career (93 wRC+ against LHP, 104 wRC+ against righties), so he doesn’t quite solve the Cubs problems against left-handed pitching. But he doesn’t strike out, so at least there’s that?
In terms of infield depth, you can do a heck of a lot worse – especially on a minor league deal that pays him only $1M (plus up to $500K in incentives) IF he makes the big league team. It’s basically the Jason Kipnis deal, and Duffy will probably have a chance to win a semi-starting job at second base. Interestingly, though, he’s spent most of his time defensively at third base and shortstop (*mostly* at third base).
Duffy will also probably serve as insurance in case the Cubs go on a trading spree in their infield, but don’t have the cash available to sign an upper-tier free agent, or don’t make an addition in the outfield. I know, that sentence doesn’t comfort you, but I’m just being honest. For example, if the Cubs trade Kris Bryant, then Duffy is in the mix to win a starting job at third. Or, for example, if Bryant spends a lot of time in left field, again, Duffy is in the mix at third.
We’ll have to dig in quickly to find a little more info on why Duffy never got big league time in 2020 with the Rangers or Yankees. Was something physically off, or was he just not looking decent at the alternate sites? More soon. Short version? There’s rarely such a thing as a bad minor league deal.
Michael Cerami contributed to this post.