Another Name for the Royals to Float

Things haven’t gone very well for the Royals this season. On that matter, we can all agree, right? Injuries have been a major problem, and injuries aren’t always “fair,” but what happens happens, and with the deadline coming up, the Royals aren’t in a great position. They’re eight and a half games out of first in their division, with three teams in front, and they’re only a couple games closer to a wild-card spot, with even more teams in front. No team wants to concede, and especially not a defending champ, but the Royals can probably tell this is unlikely to be their year. It’s not a coincidence they’re listening on Wade Davis. The Royals could be helped by doing some selling.

Some rumors have surrounded Davis. Other rumors have surrounded Ian Kennedy, if only when linked to Davis. Luke Hochevar has drawn attention to himself. Edinson Volquez has gotten some press. One name, to my knowledge, has been curiously absent. Danny Duffy is having a breakthrough season, and it feels like the Royals should make his availability known.

There are some hurdles here. Duffy is homegrown, a major internal success story, and he’s not an impending free agent. If the Royals need anything, it’s more quality starting pitching, not less, and if they were to subtract Duffy from the equation, that would deal a blow to their projected chances in 2017. It wouldn’t be an easy move to make. You’re inclined to hold onto the breakouts. And the Royals, as you know, are a loyal organization.

Taking a step back, though, the timing feels right. The Royals probably aren’t winning this year. So Duffy would be of more value to somebody else. He’s under control for next season, after this one, but then he’s due to become a free agent, so the Royals might lose him then anyway, since that’ll also be the offseason of Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, and Mike Moustakas. The Royals aren’t such a big-budget operation that they can stand to hold a bunch of one-year players. They typically need to be thinking longer-term.

And then there’s where Duffy would fit in this market. Drew Pomeranz already showed that breakout starters are in demand, and that’s because all starters are in demand. Teams are falling all over themselves to try to get Andrew Cashner. The Braves appear unwilling to move Julio Teheran. The Rays want a damn fortune for Chris Archer. The White Sox’ price for Chris Sale is probably going to be unreachable. The timing isn’t right for the A’s to move Sonny Gray, and Rich Hill has this lingering blister problem. Jeremy Hellickson is fine and absolutely nothing more than that. On and on and on and on. You’ve already read about how the market isn’t great. Here’s a table showing how Duffy has performed as a starter in 2016:

Danny Duffy, 2016
Stat Rank Percentile
Strike% 7 95%
FA Velo 9 94%
F-Strike% 41 73%
ERA- 33 78%
FIP- 44 71%
xFIP- 29 81%
Contact% 24 84%
Zone% 6 96%
K-BB% 7 95%
Duffy’s performance as a starter, among 150 starters with at least 50 innings thrown.

I wrote about Duffy a month and a half ago, and since then he’s allowed 20 runs over eight starts. He’s kept up the promising trends, and he’s built up his arm strength, reaching 100 pitches in six consecutive games. Duffy’s record this year is that of a front-of-the-rotation starter, and though the record doesn’t stretch beyond 2016, a breakout is a breakout. Pomeranz’s record doesn’t stretch beyond 2016 either. Didn’t matter to the Red Sox. Duffy should be appealing, and though he has elbow surgery in his past, he threw plenty of innings in 2014 and 2015, so there should be some faith he could keep it together down the stretch.

While Pomeranz has another two years of control, Duffy has just the one. That’s a point in Pomeranz’s favor. In Duffy’s favor, he’s done this in the American League. And the Royals could sell him as a No. 2 who sometimes looks like a No. 1. Strikes and missed bats make for an excellent foundation, and Duffy has the repertoire to match. He’d be a high-skill acquisition, not someone on Sale’s level, but someone far more affordable. Sale might cost a team four top prospects or something. Duffy would probably cost one. And the other team wouldn’t be buying a rental, which front offices always find pretty soothing.

I’m not sure what Duffy would fetch. The Rangers presumably wouldn’t be wild about moving Joey Gallo or Jurickson Profar, but Lewis Brinson could be in play. The Astros might start with David Paulino or Joe Musgrove or Francis Martes. If the Dodgers got involved, heaven knows they have the prospects. Remember, everyone wants a starter. I don’t know if the Orioles or Marlins have what the Royals would want, but those would just be additional conversations to have. The Royals would be the team with the leverage, and there wouldn’t be any shortage of interested parties.

It would hurt, I know. Duffy’s someone you want to celebrate, not trade, and if circumstances were better, he might play the part of No. 1 on another competitive Royals club. This club doesn’t look competitive enough, and while 2017 will be another opportunity, that would be Duffy’s last season under control. Plus, because of his injury history, he might not be the most dependable player longer-term, anyway. He’s of significant value right now, and that’s the only thing anyone knows for sure. Duffy would fill a need on the market. As pitchers go, it seems like a seller’s market.

To trade Danny Duffy wouldn’t be to give up on the near future. That’s over-dramatic. It would certainly hurt the near future, but there would be talent coming back, and the Royals could stand to re-stock the system. This isn’t something they have to do. But they should certainly be having conversations. Danny Duffy could rise to the top of the market, just as he’s risen to the top of the Royals’ rotation.

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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7 years ago

Update: since this article was posted, Hochevar was put on the DL with thoracic outlet syndrome. His trade value just dropped to zero I would assume