MLB teams had until the end of the day Friday to set their 40-man rosters before the Rule 5 Draft, so the Pirates did a little bit of housecleaning. Zach Duke, Delwyn Young and Andy LaRoche were all designated for assignment, according to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. All three were arbitration-eligible this fall, so these roster moves essentially serve as early non-tenders.
Duke posted a 5.72 ERA over 29 starts this past season, the highest ERA among NL starters with at least 150 innings pitched. The 27-year-old left-hander is 37-68 with a 4.80 ERA since he went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA over his first 14 major league starts in 2005. It doesn’t help that he’s been on such an awful team, but no pitcher has lost more games since the start of the 2006 season.
Duke doesn’t strike out many batters (4.7 K/9), but he does induce a fair amount of groundballs (48.9 percent) and throws strikes (2.45 BB/9). With a better defense behind him, there’s no reason why he can’t be a decent No. 4 or 5 starter in the big leagues. Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told Langosch that he tried to negotiate a contract with Duke before cutting him loose, so it’s clear the Pirates still believe he has some value, just not at the near $5 million he would have made in arbitration.
LaRoche, who came over in the Jason Bay/Manny Ramirez deal in July of 2008, batted just .226/.296/.341 with 19 homers, 92 RBI and a 637 OPS over 1,044 plate appearances as a member of the Pirates. The former top prospect hit .258 with 12 homers, 68 RBI and a 731 OPS as the team’s full-time third baseman last season and moved into a utility role after Pedro Alvarez was called up to the major leagues this past June. Still, with a good glove and decent plate discipline, the 27-year-old shouldn’t have a problem finding another opportunity in the big leagues.
Young, 28, batted .236/.286/.414 with seven home runs, 28 RBI and a 700 OPS in 207 plate appearances this season, primarily off the bench. He led the Pirates with 16 pinch-hits, but batted just .232 (16-for-69) in pinch-hit situations. His ability to play second base, third base and the outfield will help him land another gig, but he is generally regarded as a poor defensive player.