The Texas Rangers have signed infielder Matt Duffy to a minor league deal, per multiple reports. Duffy, who turned 29 earlier this month, would reportedly receive $1 million if he makes the team, with another $1.5 million in incentives.
While I know that this deal is going to prompt complaints about the Rangers going cheap and digging around in the bargain bin, Duffy’s track record has been that he’s a good player when he’s healthy. Duffy put up a 4.7 bWAR season in 2015 with the San Francisco Giants, slashing .295/.334/.428 while playing all four infield positions, and finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting. He was dealt to Tampa in 2016 in the Matt Moore deal and put up a .258/.310/.358 slash line with a 1.8 bWAR playing third base and shortstop in 366 plate appearances before being shut down to have Achilles surgery, with complications from that surgery costing him the entire 2017 season.
Duffy returned to the field in 2018, slashing .294/.361/.366 and putting up a 2.4 bWAR while playing third base and shortstop, but was limited to 169 plate appearances in 2019 due to hamstring and quad issues.
Duffy is a quality defensive third baseman who could potentially give the Rangers a utility infield option, or alternatively, could play third base with Todd Frazier going to first base against lefthanders, or on a full time basis if Ronald Guzman is in AAA.
I still think the Rangers need a legitimate center fielder, with Danny Santana filling a utility role, but if they do end up with Santana starting in center, Duffy would be a potentially useful bench piece. And if the Rangers were to go get, say, a Kevin Pillar or a Billy Hamilton as a center field option (or, dare I say, Jackie Bradley Jr.), a healthy Duffy, combined with Santana and Nick Solak, would potentially offer the Rangers a good, versatile bench.
It all depends on Duffy’s health, of course, and how much he still has left at this point. But at 29, Duffy is young enough that he shouldn’t be looked at as over the hill, and there’s some upside here.