St. Louis Cardinals: Time to check in on Danny Duffy
With the Kansas City Royals going into full rebuild mode thanks to Eric Hosmer, should the St. Louis Cardinals consider trading for starting pitcher Danny Duffy?
Slowly but surely free agents are signing with teams. With Yu Darvish and Eric Hosmer signing in the same week, it’s just a matter of time before the other free agents make their moves. Hosmer’s signing though, provides a little intrigue for the St. Louis Cardinals in my opinion.
Royals GM Dayton Moore effectively said the team was in full rebuild mode after not signing Hosmer to a deal this off-season. Personally, I think the Royals will be better off without Hosmer. But, the news of the Royals entering a rebuild process should ring some alarm bells for quite a few teams.
If the Royals are indeed serious about a rebuild process, which they should be, then you have to assume some of their bigger named players would be available on the trade market. One player peaking my interest this weekend is Danny Duffy. I know the St. Louis Cardinals have pretty much said they were not going to make any more moves this off-season, but I think they should at least take a look at what it would take to acquire someone like Duffy.
Duffy signed a five-year/$65 million contract extension starting in 2018. Over the next four years, his salary will look like this:
- $14 million
- $15.25 million
- $15.25 million
- $15.5 million
Those years will cover ages 29 through 32, making Duffy a free agent in 2022. The deal does not have any trade clauses, player options, or team options either.
From a passing glance, this seems like a pretty reasonable contract in terms of dollar over years. Consider the numbers being thrown around for Jake Arrieta and what Yu Darvish received from the Cubs also. Assuming Arrieta is in the five-year/$125 million range, Duffy’s contract looks more appealing. Arrieta’s contract will most likely take him into his mid-thirties as well.
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I’m not saying Duffy is better than Arrieta, but for a team that likes to stay conservative when it comes to money, the St. Louis Cardinals could easily afford Duffy’s contract. Where many will have a sticking point is Chris Archer. Archer has a more appealing contract and has been a consistent starter throughout his career.
While his contract is cheap, I think that works against the Cardinals. The cheap contract makes it more likely for the Cardinals to give up more prospects. Because Duffy’s contract requires the Cardinals to eat more salary, the price of acquiring Duffy may make it easier for the Cardinals to make a deal for the starter.
Left-handed starting pitcher
An immediate benefit from acquiring Duffy is having a left-handed starting pitcher in the rotation. The Cardinals have not had a left-handed starter in the rotation since Jamie Garcia. They also have not had a left-handed pitcher in the rotation with this much upside in a while either. While it may seem trivial to pick this as a specific reason, there are somethings to consider.
Having a left-handed starter will force teams to shake up their lineups from time to time. The Cardinals consistently roll out right-handers, so a lefty now and then won’t hurt. Let’s also consider what the top teams in the NL did against left-handed starting pitching last year:
- Cubs: .273/.355/.452
- Dodgers: .260/.357/.448
- Nationals: .261/.322/.440
- Diamondbacks: .256/.326/.452
- Rockies: .276/.338/.463
- Cardinals: .245/.325/.426
Think the Cubs are trying to exploit the Cardinals weakness in not being able to hit left-handed pitching? The Cardinals should take a page out of the Cubs book and acquire a left-handed pitcher to make it harder on some of the teams they will face throughout the year.
The last two years have been pretty good for Danny Duffy. Minus the injury last year, Duffy has shown a nice, steady improvement in his pitching. I’ll talk more about his injury a little later. Let’s take a look at his numbers over the last couple of seasons:
2016 is Duffy’s best year and it was pretty much his breakthrough year as well. He pitched out of the bullpen somewhat, but found success as a starter. The Royals then rewarded him with an opportunity to start throughout the year and in 2017, not to mention his contract extension.
A closer look at 2017 shows Duffy was on his way to a very impressive year. Through May, Duffy held hitters to .269/.340/.383 triple slash line. Then Duffy turned it up in July. He held hitters to a .255/.279/.395 triple slash line. Injuries continued to derail him and his latter of the year saw him come back down to earth. Duffy finished the season with a 3.81 ERA, a 3.46 FIP, and 130 strike outs in 146.1 innings.
The hold up
If there is anything to be concerned about Duffy it is his health. As I mentioned earlier, his 2017 season was hit with some injury. It wasn’t just any injury either. Duffy has elbow pain and soreness in his throwing elbow, raising the caution flag for Tommy John surgery. The Royals opted to have Duffy rest to see if the pain would go away.
The soreness subsided and Duffy resumed activity in July and the rest of the year. That’s all great, but what about now? According to Duffy a month ago, via a quote to Jeffrey Flanagan, his elbow “feels great, really great.” Duffy went on to say he hasn’t had any pain or discomfort throwing.
That should put some ease behind teams looking to acquire Duffy, but it still represents a caution flag. The St. Louis Cardinals have had their bad luck with Tommy John for the last five season or so. If they added Duffy and he underwent TJ surgery, it would be a massive mistake on the Cardinals part.
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But, if he is healthy and medically cleared, then there shouldn’t be any reason to suspect anything different.
At most, he may seem some irritation occur again, but as long as the St. Louis medical team stays on top of his health, then it should be fine.
Another thing to consider is whether the Royals feel like they can rebuild their team in the next four years. My guess is probably/definitely not, but they may feel differently.
If the Royals are reluctant to trade Duffy to another team, then their rebuild will be much slower in my opinion. He is their biggest leverage for any team looking to contend outside of Salvador Perez.
Lastly, also consider what other teams would be interested in Duffy. The Brewers and Yankees would certainly look to add Duffy. Their prospect systems are pretty well-regarded. The Indians may consider making a move for Duffy, but unlikely to get him due to being in the same division.
My point is the Cardinals won’t be the only ones looking to get Duffy if he’s available. The front office will have to dish out some top pitching prospects in order to get Duffy and probably eat 100% of his contract. When’s the last time the Cardinals made that bold of a move?
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The St. Louis Cardinals most likely won’t go down this road, but there isn’t any reason not to check in knowing the Royals are in rebuild mode. If the price is right, I think the Cardinals should move for Duffy.