‘Tis the season for reports out how a team is interested in a certain player from another team who may or may not be made available in a trade. You can’t really blame someone for reporting on what might be merely be due diligence, nor can you blame teams for tacitly shopping their desirable assets during the frenzy of the Winter Meetings.
The Rays are one such team, existing as they do in a perpetual state of presumed sell-off. Another may be the Royals, whose competitive window has more or less been slammed shut as their free agents all figure to sign lucrative deals elsewhere. As such, they might be looking to sell off anyone who can bring back decent value.
Jeffrey Flanagan, who covers the Royals for MLB.com, tweeted that the team is getting hits on multiple players now that their rebuild plans are public knowledge. Flanagan specifically mentions Danny Duffy and Kelvin Herrera, the former of whom is reportedly drawing some interest from the Cubs.
The Royals continue to get hits on players such as Duffy, Herrera, etc.— that is expected now that rival teams know their rebuild plans. They will listen to all offers.
— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) December 12, 2017
Duffy, who will turn 28 later in December, just signed a five-year extension in January of 2017 and has four years remaining at $60 million. Though he’s not spectacular, there’s a lot of value in a lefty who puts up decent strikeout numbers (8.0 K/9 in 2017) and relatively low walk numbers (2.5 BB/9) while usually keeping the ball in the park (career 0.98 HR/9).
The southpaw isn’t without some pretty serious red flags, though, not the least of which is a DUI arrest last August after Duffy was found passed out in his car in a Burger King drive-thru (which is like the bizzaro version of Humpty). There’s also the matter of a surgery in October to remove “loose bodies” from his pitching elbow and a DL stint due to an elbow impingement that caused him to miss a couple weeks in September.
Duffy was limited to 146.1 innings over 24 starts, which is more or less par for the course for him. Though he has spent some time going back and forth from the rotation to the ‘pen, he’s never made more than 26 starts or thrown as many as 180 innings in a season. Between the durability concerns and overall performance, he comes across almost like a mirror image of Alex Cobb.
Were I to hazard a guess, I’d say that any interest in Duffy on the Cubs’ part is more about hedging their bets when it comes to signing Cobb. Whether it’s a fallback in case the former Rays starter signs elsewhere or a way to gain a little leverage in negotiations with Cobb, the similarities between the two pitchers are such that it’d be a curious move to give up talent in a trade and pay Duffy’s salary.
Even the money involved seems to match up pretty closely, though it’s possible that market demands could push Cobb to ask for a fifth year or more AAV. But if you look at where the projections have him, four years and $60 million seems about right. So if we’re talking about similar overall performance, Duffy’s character issues and not having to trade anyone away make Cobb a better option.
If there is one thing weighing heavily in Duffy’s favor, it’s that he already owns a bear costume. Which, you know, would be more apropos if he played for the Cubs.
And maybe there’s more to it than just interest in Duffy, as FanRag’s Robert Murray notes that the Cubs also like KC’s Scott Alexander. The 28-year-old lefty reliever put up a 2.48 ERA (3.23 FIP) over 69 innings last season, posting 7.7 K/9 and 3.65 BB/9 along the way. The numbers are pretty pedestrian, until you get to the grounders.
Alexander induced an eye-popping 73.8 percent groundball percentage last season, five points better than any MLB pitcher with at least 60 innings. And his 72.9 percent grounder rate since 2015 is second in baseball over that time to Zach Britton (77.7). As you might figure, Alexander ranks among the best in avoiding hard contact and inducing soft contact during that time.
One more thing, he’s not even arb-eligible until 2020 and is under control through 2022. I have no idea what the Royals want for him and that club control alone is valuable, but I have to imagine the Cubs could do worse than trading for a lefty reliever who gets worm-burners three quarters of the time.
Even if these reports end up being old news by the time I hit publish, it’s fun to follow along and see where the offseason is going.