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Terrerobytes: Back to work

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Zach Duke makes rare news on Christmas, the Marlins are a mess, and more

MLB: New York Yankees at Chicago White Sox Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Christmas Day is usually a quiet day for baseball transactions, but the Twins broke protocol by signing Zach Duke to a major-league deal on Monday. The terms of the deal are not yet known.

Duke returns to the AL Central after a dramatic two years. He worked hard in 2016, pitching in 81 games for the White Sox and then the Cardinals after a midseason trade for Charlie Tilson. The workload came with a cost, as Duke underwent Tommy John surgery that October. Yet somehow he returned to St. Louis’ bullpen in July for the quickest turnaround from Tommy John surgery in recent history.

Duke didn’t pitch all that well over the subsequent 27 games — a 5.29 FIP due to a poor combination of strikeout, walk and home run totals over 18 13 innings — but he can argue that he knocked off the rust against MLB-caliber competition in advance of his newest contract.

It continues a pitching-heavy offseason for Minnesota, which has added Michael Pineda and Fernando Rodney, and continues to track Yu Darvish’s market with as much interest as any other team. Their aggression makes sense ...

Terrerobytes

.... because the enhanced penalties for flouting the luxury tax is working much better as a soft salary cap than previous attempts, so it makes sense for mid- or small-market teams to make aggressive pushes. That said, I agree with Grant Brisbee that it’s not nearly as fun following baseball’s offseason when teams don’t or can’t pursue need-based players aggressively.

It might be overdramatic to say the Miami Marlins are burning, but the way Rob Manfred handled direct questions about them gives off the smell of burning pants, if nothing else. The original interview is both great TV and radio, and even if Le Batard was angling for a fight and struggled to channel his anger, Manfred sounded ill-prepared for an interview that was likely to be contentious, and doesn’t inspire much faith for navigating complications from future valuations and ownership transfers.

It’s weird to consider Rick Hahn a candidate for such a title given the White Sox’ record over his tenure as GM, but he probably had the biggest impact on the Chicago sports landscape over the specific year. At any rate, a full transcription of a 76-minute-long interview gives everybody a chance to frame the most important aspects of his conversation with Jon Greenberg themselves.

One particularly important answer for the upcoming year as we calibrate expectations for moves over the rest of the winter:

Will the quality of the major league team be better?

I think so. A full year of Moncada is going to help. Bringing in Welington Castillo is going to upgrade us at an area. The pitching, blew a hole in our bullpen pretty good last summer so we still have some work to do in the coming months to shore that up. But I think at the bare minimum, it’s reasonable to project an improved performance in a handful of spots around the diamond. At the bare minimum, we’ve come to expect that they're going to play hard for 27 outs every night. That cultural or environmental approach to the game that Ricky and the coaches have put in place, that's the kind of thing can endure. The roster is going change, as this thing progresses and the depth of talent is different going forward, but that approach, I think, is going to be a constant throughout. Just seeing the team play that way, as we did for several months last summer, that’s progress and that's important. That’s something we're going to count on seeing again next year.