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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Danny Duffy

The left-hander may not be the most enticing name out there, but he could be a good addition to the pitching staff.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Texas Rangers Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are still on the lookout for pitching, and bringing at least a couple of starters should be a priority once the lockout is finally lifted and teams can negotiate with free agents again. Most of the top names are already off the market, but there are still some appealing alternatives to be considered should the Yanks go the free agency route.

Getting Clayton Kershaw or Carlos Rodon (the latter is much more likely, if we are being honest) would be a coup. However, if New York wants to go with a middle tier option, Danny Duffy would be a good signing depending on the price.

Speaking of the price, the Yankees wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) pay 100 percent value, because the player is currently injured. Duffy, who was acquired by the Los Angeles Dodgers at the deadline after a strong first half with the Kansas City Royals, didn’t throw a single pitch in LA because of arm issues.

These arm problems, more specifically in his left flexor tendon, led to surgery in October. He avoided the dreaded Tommy John, but he went under the knife nonetheless and is expected to be out for the beginning of the new season, should it start in time.

He is expected to be ready to pitch by May or June, so the Yankees would sign him knowing they won’t count on him to contribute in the first couple of months of the season. There are risks associated with bringing in players who are currently injured (their rehab could extend beyond the previously targeted date, for example), but Duffy could be a worthwhile flier.

He was good in 2021: in 12 starts and 61.0 frames, he had a 2.51 ERA and a 3.40 FIP. He also compiled 65 strikeouts and a 1.21 WHIP in his best season since 2017.

The potential red flags with Duffy are the fact he is currently on the shelf, and he had ERAs well over 4.00 from 2018 to 2020. That shouldn’t be ignored. But he was off to a great start last year and, at 32, should still have enough in his arm to make an impact for a few more years. Working with pitching coach Matt Blake, who had a highly successful year with the Yankees, also wouldn’t hurt.

The good news is that Duffy had a career-high swinging strike rate (SwStr%), with 13.6 percent. He missed more bats than ever, and had three pitches with a whiff rate over 30 percent: his slider (39.3), his changeup (37.3) and his curveball (31). He kept his fastball up (and with some increased velocity, too), and his slider and change in the low corners:

This is how his pitches looked in 2021, starting with his slider:

And an overlay of his fastball and curveball:

Ditching his sinker, or at least decreasing its usage could help him, as the pitch had a .487 wOBA and a .401 xwOBA against. But overall, he had some really promising results stuff-wise in 2021, including his fastball and its 96.7 percent of active spin (134 out of 734 qualified pitchers).

When the Dodgers acquired him, there was some chatter about him being used as a multi-inning reliever. That’s something the Yankees could consider too, if they sign him. It could actually keep him fresher and more effective. However, New York needs the rotation depth more than another bullpen arm.

All things considered, Duffy may not be the sexiest name the Yankees can bring in once transactions are allowed again. But he could be a savvy acquisition if they are willing to wait a bit for his services.