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Ticking Time on The Doof


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Tyler Duffey was among the best relievers in all of baseball in 2019 and 2020 and was a valuable reliever in 2021 despite a bit of a step back. With one year of control remaining on the home-grown reliever, what does the future look like for the Doof?

From 2019 to 2020, Tyler Duffey ranked second in all of baseball in ERA among all pitchers who had thrown at least 80 innings. He struck out over 12 batters per nine innings and became one of the most dominant and underrated bullpen arms in all of baseball. After Taylor Rogers struggled in 2020, some even believed Duffey should have been elevated to closing duties.

2021 hasn’t been quite the same for Duffey, although he’s still been a valuable arm. His strikeouts have dropped to under a batter per inning while his walks have ballooned to a career high of over four per nine innings. In short, Duffey just hasn't been consistent. His 0.7 fWAR in 2021 matches his 2020 mark despite throwing 35 more innings. Now over 30 years old and entering his last ride through arbitration, Duffey becomes an interesting case for 2022.

Non-Tender
After making a bit over $2m in 2021 it would be surprising to see the Twins scoff at a moderate pay increase for a reliever who’s been so solid. Still, it’s fair to wonder whether the front office has learned a lesson in hubris when it comes to bullpen building. It would raise some eyebrows, but they very well could look at Duffey’s age and stat line and believe there’s better value to be had elsewhere for $3-4m. 

While I wouldn’t advise non-tendering such a dependable reliever given the year the Twins just had, there’s a scenario where the front office would be correct in this decision. Relievers, in general, are volatile and Duffey is coming off of an inconsistent season with diminished velocity and is now over the age of 30. I think this is the least-likely scenario, but it’s definitely a possibility.

Extension
One way to avoid having to worry about arbitration and impending free agency is to work on an extension. Duffey and the Twins could hammer out a 2-3 year deal for a fairly insignificant figure that makes sense for both sides. Duffey would get security for the next two years and the Twins get the reassurance of one of their bullpen stalwarts staying for the next two years.

Again, I see this as an unlikely scenario. Duffey looked far from on the top of his game throughout all of 2021, and I’d guess the Twins would have liked to see more from him in order to lock him up through his age 32 season.

Reach a Deal
The likeliest scenario is the Twins find the middle ground on a pre-arbitration one-year deal as they showed they like to do in the 2020 offseason. Duffey gets one last year guaranteed in Minnesota and the Twins get another year of a hopefully-reliable reliever with no further commitment into the future.

This also allows the Twins to trade Duffey (something I thought they would have done this year) at the deadline if out of contention or even turn around and trade him before the season begins. The price would be the driving factor, but if a team sees their 2022 setup man and offers a fair price to bring him in, the Twins may just save the money and take the return. I think this outcome is increasingly likely if someone like Donaldson or Buxton are traded during the winter and the team shifts its outlook to 2023.

Duffey’s had a storied career in Minnesota, but one way or another it may be nearing its end. The Twins have to assess which route best benefits the team moving forward, and it may not be as easy a decision as it would have been last offseason. How do you think the Twins should handle the Duffey situation?

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Does everyone just want to watch a 90 loss team for the next decade?  We aren’t the Pirates!  
3 to 4 million is nothing for a reliever, he has been good to great the past 2 seasons and this yr he has been ok.  Give him his $ go into next season with him in the back end of games reliever mix.  
If we totally fall out of contention next season relievers with a half season left have decent value at the trade deadline.  I’m not ready to just punt on the 2022 season already. 

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I don't think a multi-year deal would probably be necessary for Duffey. It feels like most mid-inning relievers wind up on 1 year contacts and that's what Duffey was this year. I think a 1 year $3-4MM deal sounds about right to avoid arbitration. I'd absolutely sign him. He's cheap and I'd expect him to be at least an effective mid-innings guy with upside if he figures out what went wrong this year.

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Observations

.He still is one of the current better arms (remember when he was a starter waaaay back in 2015 and actually looked good in 10 games before sucking in 2016, switching to the pen and really sucking in 2017 and 2018, before finding himself).

 

How long can that happen?

 

No one seemed to be kicking down the door at the trade deadline.

 

He will still be cheap in 2022.

 

I would've been trying him in the closer role rather than Colome the past month, unless the Twins are really thinking they want Colome back.

 

Pitchers get old...sometimes fast. Because it takes a lot of work to constantly spot your stuff, mix-it-up, and be prepared for action any and every day.

 

 

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3 hours ago, Nine of twelve said:

With all due respect to Taylor Rogers, Duffey should be our closer. It's better to have a righty in that role, and Rogers and Alcala can mix and match for the 7th and 8th. Now we just need to find a way to get through the first 6 innings...

Any team with the Doof as closer probably is looking at 90+ losses. Not because he will personally blow 20 saves, but because the rest of the bullpen must be really mediocre and there won't be too many leads to save.

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10 hours ago, ashbury said:

Any team with the Doof as closer probably is looking at 90+ losses. Not because he will personally blow 20 saves, but because the rest of the bullpen must be really mediocre and there won't be too many leads to save.

This is an agree to disagree moment. Watching him during the last month or two I think he has closer stuff and has developed a bit of swagger that comes from confidence. Subjective observations but I think he has grown to the point where he can do it. I'm making him a pick to click for next season. Even if we trade him.

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On 10/3/2021 at 5:16 AM, Nine of twelve said:

This is an agree to disagree moment. Watching him during the last month or two I think he has closer stuff and has developed a bit of swagger that comes from confidence. Subjective observations but I think he has grown to the point where he can do it. I'm making him a pick to click for next season. Even if we trade him.

Swagger is all well and good, but how about command, and also consistency?  Too many times I've seen him come out there with no ability to put the breaking pitch where he needs to, and then the hitters sit on the fastball.  Some days he looks like he's found it, and then the next time out, zilch.  I haven't seen him often enough lately to know whether I still feel the same; but consistency is partly about not getting too enthused about any individual outing. 

He's had a good September, fantastic really and nearly spotless except for one outing, but I'm uneasy that it's built on a BABIP of .111 - and the one blemish was against a top team.  I'm going to withhold judgement about him being at a new and permanent level of elite achievement at least through next April, and against top teams when those opportunities roll around.

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The world of a RP is volatile to be sure. Some arms die early, sometimes very early. Some arms seem to die and then try something different or take a different approach and find a 2nd life. A precious few are just great for almost their entire career.

IMO, Duffey is SIMILAR to point #2. He won't turn 31yo, I believe, until December. There is no question he was mediocre the 1st half of the year. And I don't have his numbers in front of me, other than the team's last 30 games, but he seemed to turn a corner the 2nd half. His velocity seemed to increase lately as well, I've also seen and heard that he changed his off speed approach a bit. There was an interesting interview with Rogers lately where he spoke about changes Duffey made this season which lead to his better 2nd half.

I think the Twins are counting on him and I would as well. I would do a 2yr with an inexpensive 3rd year option.

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1 hour ago, Nine of twelve said:

I don't recall hearing this before either. Obviously the OP has. From where, I don't know. Maybe he just made it up.

His baseball-reference.com page shows his nickname as The Doof.  (He went to Rice University so the term is surely a fond one - he's not a doofus.)

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8 hours ago, Hosken Bombo Disco said:

Is that supposed to be some non-phonetic spelling of The Duff?  I think this is the more compelling question. :) 

Kind of like how you see the word boogieman spelled out as “bogeyman” — in an attempt to terrorize golfers, apparently. 

At the risk of veering too far off-topic, the word is bogeyman. Variations in spelling have arisen over the years.

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