After missing out on Eric Hosmer it seemed that the player to man first base for the Kansas City Royals was going to be someone in-house. However, the Royals made a move that officially changes that…for now.
The Royals gave the impression that the player to fill the open spot at first base was going to come from within. Hunter Dozier has been at the top of the depth chart since Eric Hosmer left for free agency.
After missing on Logan Morrison, who reportedly turned down a two year, $20 million deal to come to Kansas City, it seemed all but certain that Dozier would man first base. Dayton Moore had a different idea though.
Lucas Duda signed a one year, $3.5 million deal with the Royals on Wednesday.
In order to make room for Duda on the 40-man roster, the Royals designated outfielder Billy Burns for assignment. This move does bring a bit of clarity as to why the Royals signed the veteran outfielder, Michael Saunders earlier in the week.
Lucas Duda Breakdown
When you look at him analytically, he has a career slash of .242/.340/.457 which is not all that bad for only $3.5 million. Over the last four years, he has hit 189 extra base hits, 94 being home runs. He has shown the ability to be a power hitter, which could benefit the Royals.
Unfortunately, large power numbers usually come with large strikeout numbers. He has struck out at least 135 times three of the last four years, only playing 150 games once over that time span. He has played 812 games and has struck out 745 times over his 8-year career.
When you look at his wRC+ he does look pretty good though. Since 2011 he has been below 100, which is average, only once. Otherwise, he has been considered above average offensively every year. To be more specific, he has a wRC+ of 120 or higher in four of the last seven years (three of those four years were 130 or higher).
Lastly, his .818 OPS last year would have put him in third place for the 2017 Royals. The only players who had a higher OPS than Duda were Mike Moustakas and Hosmer.
As a defender, Duda has been a pretty consistent fielder. His career defensive numbers while playing first base was consistent with last year while playing first base, both being a .995 fielding percentage. To put that in perspective for you, Duda would have ranked in the Top-10 of the entire MLB and tied for sixth in the American League defensively for all first basemen.
Duda also had a defensive win above replacement (dWAR) of -0.4 last year, which would have put him in the Top-10 of all first basemen in the MLB and fifth in the American League in dWAR. To avoid discrepancies, over the last four years, Duda has a combined -1.5 dWAR while playing first base.
On a one year deal, and the potential production that could happen, this contract does not seem to bad.
What the signing could mean
This contract comes with seemingly a lot of side categories to it. Obviously, signing Duda does not prevent a young player from making his move to the big leagues. In fact, Dayton Moore has a reason for why he thinks this will benefit the team and players more than harm them.
So what does all of this mean? It potentially means that Dozier will be brought along slowly and Duda is essentially a bridge for when they finally decide Dozier will make the transition. But the goal seems to alleviate some of the pressure for Dozier to be producing right now.
Something to keep in mind as well. Last year the New York Mets traded Duda to the Tampa Bay Rays at the deadline. Before he was traded he was hitting .246/.347/.532 with 38 extra base hits. The Mets were able to flip him for a young pitcher, Drew Smith, who has a lot of promise.
The Royals might be operating on the idea that if Duda has another solid start to the season they could flip him at the All-Star Break. With how reasonable his contract is, a team looking for a power bat, and is pushing for the postseason, might be willing to part way with a prospect, or two.
When the news broke, I was taken aback by it. I was under the impression that the Royals were going to roll with the young group to see what they actually have. That was what Dayton Moore made it sound like, at least.
The signing of Duda worried me because it seems like he is another version of Brandon Moss. A player that has a high power potential, a high number of strikeouts, and at times a low batting average.
Luckily, the contract is a one year deal and it is a low-value deal. If things work according to plan, he could be a perfect “flip candidate” at the deadline. From what Moore said, that would be the ideal time to bring a guy like Dozier up too.
So what do you think Royals fans? What do you think of the contract? Do you like signing a veteran to hold down first base for a bit, allowing Dozier to grow more in Omaha? Do you think the contract is a bad move? Let us know your thoughts!