Cincinnati Reds

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  • Reds hire Kevin Towers as special assistant to GM (The Associated Press)

    CINCINNATI (AP) -- The Reds hired former Arizona general manager Kevin Towers as a special assistant for player personnel on Tuesday.

  • Stanton can opt out of deal after $107 million (The Associated Press)

    NEW YORK (AP) -- Giancarlo Stanton will make just $6.5 million in the first year of his record $325 million, 13-year contract with the Miami Marlins.

  • Reinvented as reliever, Zach Duke cashes in (Big League Stew)

    As a once highly rated starting pitching prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates system, left-hander Zach Duke likely had visions of what his first big money contract would look like. Chances are, it looked nothing like the one he signed with the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. The 31-year-old starter-turned-reliever inked a three-year, $15 million deal . That's obviously far from the big money he would have made as a top flight starter, but it does set the bar high for this winter's free agent relievers. Considering where Duke's career seemed to be headed after flaming out in Pittsburgh, he'll absolutely take that distinction.  In parts of six seasons as a full-time starter for the Pirates, Duke went 45-70 with a 4.54 ERA over 159 starts. Fine for a back-end starter, but Pittsburgh had higher hopes. Accepting that a breakthrough to the upper echelon was unlikely, Duke was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in November of 2010 for marginal pitching prospect Cesar Valdez. It was there that his new career path would be established, but he was far from an overnight success.  "It's a blow to the ego a bit when you get fired from a position," Duke said of his transition to the 'pen. "I felt like I was asked to no longer be a starter. That was a tough pill to swallow for a while. But once I kind of embraced the role of being a reliever, I had to take a step back and figure some things out and figure out how I was going to get an opportunity as a reliever." After posting a 3.86 ERA in 12 relief appearances for Arizona, Duke signed as a free agent with the Houston Astros prior to the 2012 campaign, but failed to make the team. Still struggling to find his niche, Duke nearly pitched himself out of the league, posting an 8.71 ERA in 12 appearances with Washington in 2013. After a quick stint with the Cincinnati Reds, it was back to the drawing board with the hopes of one more shot.  That shot would come with the Milwaukee Brewers. who signed Duke to a minor-league deal in January. Reinvented with a sidearm delivery and a heavier reliance on two-seam fastballs, sliders and curveballs, Duke finally flourished. In a career-high 74 appearances, Duke posted a 2.45 ERA while striking out 11.4 batters per nine innings. That more than doubled his 4.7 career rate coming in.  Granted, it was only one season of success, but Duke's breakout season coupled with his new arm slot and altered approach quickly established him as a desirable free agent target. Adding to his value is the fact he was nearly as tough on right-handed hitters (242/.288/.298 against) as he was left-handed hitters (198/.267/.302). Those numbers could ticket him for a late-inning role. "He, in our opinion, was one of the most desirable relievers out on the market," Hahn said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters. "He was a player that we targeted very early in the process, that we were aggressive on and needed to be given his popularity in the market." All things taken into account, it would appear Duke is on track to become the next promising starter reinvented into a dominant reliever story in baseball, if he's not there already. It's a story that's not all that unfamiliar in baseball's current climate. In fact, this season's World Series featured two of the more prominent stories in Kansas City Royals set up man Wade Davis and San Francisco Giants left-hander Jeremy Affeldt. Still, it's a notable story if for no other reason than it highlights the character of players who were knocked down, swallowed their pride and returned with a renewed purpose.  If Duke proves to be on that level, Chicago will have a bargain deal. As for free agent relievers similar to Duke, like say Andrew Miller, they're just happy Chicago upped the ante and provided an appealing reference point for their own negotiations.  More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports: - - - - - - - Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

  • Yankees and Red Sox shut out of MVP votes for first time ever (Big League Stew)

  • 10 incredible facts about Clayton Kershaw's Cy Young and MVP season (Big League Stew)

    It takes special talent and historical production to earn a clean sweep of baseball's two biggest individual awards. Clayton Kershaw fit that description in 2014,  becoming just the 11th pitcher to win the Cy Young award and MVP in the same season since the former was introduced in 1956.  Kershaw was the unanimous choice in the NL Cy Young race, earning all 30 votes over Johnny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds and Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals. Kershaw earned 18 first-place and nine second-place votes for MVP , which was good enough to top Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins and 2013 MVP Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Kershaw is the first NL pitcher to sweep the awards since Bob Gibson in 1968. Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers was the most recent, earning both AL honors in 2011.  It's elite territory reserved for next-level talents, which, at 26, Kershaw certainly is. Even still, a lot had to come together for him to make history. Here are 10 incredible facts and tidbits from his 2014 season that ultimately added up to an award sweep.   

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