It’s pretty early, but a veteran KC Royals pitcher could be the topic of trade talks before spring training even ends.
Spring training is a time typically too early to consider trades or other ways to obtain additional major-league players, but unfortunate circumstances can suddenly force teams to seek help. Take, for example, the season-ending UCL damage Salvador Perez suffered in spring camp last year–the KC Royals hadn’t been searching for catching help before, but the injury triggered a backstop search that soon ended with the signing of free agent Martin Maldonado.
Now, it’s the New York Yankees, a strong team expected to make a deep playoff run, who find themselves compelled to soon solve problems caused by recent injuries to their starting rotation. First, James Paxton was lost for an undetermined time due to back surgery; now, Luis Severino‘s most recent injury (UCL) will sideline him for the entire season after he missed most of last season with various maladies.
These injuries to key rotation pieces (Severino was 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA in 2017, then 19-8 and 3.39 in ’18; after establishing himself as a key Seattle starter with records of 12-5 in ’17 and 11-6 in ’18, Paxton was 15-6 last season for New York) require the Yankees to search immediately, either internally or externally, for starters to fill the gaps.
At least one media outlet suggests the Yankees might target KC Royals starter Danny Duffy, a left-hander (like Paxton) whose best major league moments warrant a tire kick. Duffy is in the next-to-last year of his contract extension, a hefty $65 million deal scheduled to pay $15.25 million this season and $15.5 million next. While some teams might be reluctant to take on such a salary burden, and most teams wouldn’t, the Yankees certainly have more than sufficient resources to do it.
And despite his historic inconsistency, Duffy has the talent to provide at least emergency relief to New York. Duffy is 60-61 with a 3.98 ERA in nine Royal seasons; 2016 was his best campaign (12-3, 3.51 ERA, with a near no-hitter, a KC record of 16 strikeouts in one game, and career highs in strikeouts, SO9, BB9 and innings), and his 24-28 record for 2017-2019 is due in no small part to the fact he pitched for bad teams that gave him poor run support.
His serviceable 7-6 record last season (he missed some time on the IL) and a stellar September suggest Duffy can still help any team. He could fill the lefty gap Paxton’s absence gives the Yankees, then plug the season-long hole caused by Severino’s latest injury. And, pitching with the support the Yankees’ potent offense is sure to provide, his record would almost certainly improve.
A Duffy trade could be positive for the KC Royals in two ways: it would free up a considerable two-season chunk of payroll and could reap good new talent–Kansas City won’t give up Duffy for nothing. The Yanks, already saddled with rotation problems, won’t give up a major league starter just to get another, but there may be a bullpen piece, backup player, or a minor league prospect or two that, combined, might constitute an attractive return package. If New York calls, the Royals should listen.
This is a critical season for Danny Duffy, perhaps the most important of his career, and one he can’t afford to squander. A campaign in New York with a team destined for contention could do wonders for him, and a trade could be good for the Royals.