Zach Duke, who spent last season with the Diamondbacks, has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Astros.
Duke was once considered a top prospect for the Pirates, but had a 4.54 ERA over six seasons in Pittsburgh before being traded to Arizona last offseason.
He posted a 4.93 ERA in 77 innings split between the rotation and bullpen, but missed time with a broken hand and struck out a measly 3.8 batters per nine innings. Not surprisingly the Diamondbacks declined his $5.5 million option for 2012, paying Duke a $750,000 buyout instead.
Houston can certainly use plenty of pitching depth, but barring the Astros trading a veteran starter he’ll probably be competing for a long relief gig.
Free agent lefty reliever Aaron Loup has been given a locker in the Padres’ clubhouse, AJ Cassavell of MLB.com reported Sunday. Per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, Loup received a one-year MLB deal with a club option for 2020. The Padres will shift right-hander Garrett Richards to the 60-day injured list to make room on the 40-man roster.
Loup, 31, began the 2018 season with the Blue Jays and was traded to the Phillies for minor league right-hander Jacob Waguespack at the midseason deadline. The veteran left-hander pitched just two innings in Philadelphia before hitting the injured list with a forearm strain and returned for a handful of appearances at the end of the year, bringing him up to a 4.54 ERA, 3.2 BB/9, 10.0 SO/9, and 0.3 fWAR across 39 2/3 combined innings.
Assuming health issues don’t complicate his next campaign in San Diego, Loup will be added to the bullpen alongside fellow left-handers Matt Strahm and José Castillo (with the possible late addition of southpaw reliever Brad Wieck, who underwent surgery for testicular cancer earlier this year). There are worse places to be — according to FanGraphs, the Padres’ ‘pen jumped from second-worst in 2017 to second-best in the league with a cumulative 3.53 ERA, 3.31 FIP, and 8.7 fWAR in 2018.