It’s gonna be a hot minute before the Chicago Cubs can actually pursue another big league free agent (though minor league free agents are fair game!), but a part of me wonders if we’ll still see rumor reports out there throughout this process. Consider that you can’t contact a player or his agent during the lockout, but you COULD let it slip to a report that you’re totally into a certain free agent and you just hope he’ll take your call when the lockout ends.
To be sure, I’m not alleging anything here with today’s specific player, whose name has come up over at The Athletic before. It’s just that, writing up my first Cubs-to-specific-player-type rumor of the lockout, it occurred to me that this is how teams could communicate going forward.
Anyway, the specific rumor I wanted to share comes from Sahadev Sharma, who was discussing the type of pitchers the Cubs could go after now that they’ve added a couple contact-managing, modest-velo types in Wade Miley and Marcus Stroman. Many of the short-term, hard-throwing types already inked deals before the lockout kicked in, but here’s a conspicuously specific mention from Sharma, emphasis mine:
It also means the Cubs still haven’t addressed their need for power pitching. That could be difficult going forward since those types of pitchers are largely no longer available. They’d love to add someone with an upper-90s heater and a devastating curveball, but to do so they’d have to explore the trade market, which is certainly something they’ll do. Adding more strikeouts to the bullpen will also be a priority after the lockout, and they’ll look for high-risk, high-reward types on short deals who could fit that mold. James Paxton and Corey Kluber are already taken, but Danny Duffy is someone they would pursue once the lockout ends.
A paragraph to describe the type of guy the Cubs would want to add from here, a mention of names that would’ve made sense and went off the board, and then a single, solitary player mentioned as a future pursuit. I’m gonna take a wild guess and say that this is probably some informed speculation from Sharma (who, like I said, has mentioned Duffy before in larger groups of possible targets for the Cubs).
Duffy, who’ll turn 33 later this month, checks all the boxes as a fairly obvious and “intelligent” target for the Cubs. He’s a formerly excellent lefty coming off an injury-shortened year, who is likely going to be looking for a short-term, bounce-back opportunity on a team like the Cubs. The long-time Royal struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness from 2018-2020, but looked like he was breaking back out in 2021 (including a fastball that had ticked back up to 94 mph) before the injury arrived.
To that point, there’s your biggest potential issue with Duffy: that injury is potentially a biggy. Here’s the write-up from the OC Register as of late September:
Acquired at the trade deadline from the Kansas City Royals, left-hander Danny Duffy will not pitch for the Dodgers after suffering a setback in his recovery from a flexor tendon injury in his pitching arm.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said “it’s possible” Duffy will need to undergo Tommy John surgery (his second) if he wants to continue pitching but that hasn’t been determined yet.
Friedman said Duffy (who would be a free agent this winter) is “trying to figure out what the next step” is in his career and acknowledged that it might be retirement for Duffy, who will turn 33 in December.“The point from me was go ahead and take your time,” Friedman said. “You don’t have to make that decision right now. There’s a lot of emotion involved.”
In other words, even if Duffy doesn’t need surgery and comes back to pitch in 2022, it’ll be constantly under the lingering threat of a re-injury and a total shutdown.
Because of the injuries, and as Sharma’s paragraph suggests, you couldn’t really count on Duffy to be a member of your rotation, even if he’s healthy in the spring. Instead, you’d be signing him as a guy who could give you innings in a variety of ways, depending on your need and his health. It must be that the Cubs just like the potential for Duffy to succeed with their system going forward, and if you can get another hard-throwing lefty onto your staff (the starting group for which currently features three soft-tossing righties and a soft-tossing lefty), you do it. Figure out the rest later. (Here’s where I become an idiot and start thinking about a four-man rotation (Stroman, Hendricks, Miley, Mills) with four piggybacks (Duffy, Thompson, Alzolay, Steele) …. )
Duffy, for what it’s worth, has more or less only been a starter in his career. But his age and injury situation could mean he’s being viewed purely as a one-inning reliever type. We won’t really know on that front until after the lockout.
However the role might theoretically shake out, Duffy’s will be a name to keep an eye on throughout the lockout, and then whenever it resolves. He won’t be getting a substantial big league guarantee at this point, but he’s absolutely worth a flyer if healthy.