As the end of his five-year KC Royals contract nears, a veteran starter may finish 2021 elsewhere.
He is a Royal whose loves for the team and city he plays in are legend. Danny Duffy has never, ever kept secret his desire to play his entire career in Kansas City.
Time in Kauffman Stadium baseball residence may, however, be running short for Duffy. He’s preparing for the fifth, and final, year of the $65 million dollar deal he signed before the 2017 season; barring an extension, Duffy will hit the free agent market for the first time this coming winter. That alone makes him a trade deadline prospect.
But there’s more. This could be the season the KC Royals run out of patience with Duffy. Call it underachievement, underperformance, or disappointment: whatever the characterization, Duffy has yet to meet the expectations underlying the deal that recognized him, for a short time, as Kansas City’s ace. The club may want to move on from Duffy in July and get what they can for him.
The 32-year old 10-year veteran hasn’t repeated the 12-3, 3.51 ERA 2016 season that convinced the Royals he would be their No. 1 starter for a long time to come. He’s 28-32 since, although injuries and poor run support have played a part in that unremarkable (for a $65 million dollar man) record. The franchise hoped for more.
Duffy suffered two straight losing campaigns after signing his new contract, then went an encouraging 7-6 in 2019. He was 4-4 last season and displayed some glimpses of his 2016 form.
But Duffy has come to the crossroad. No matter how her performs, this season could be his last with the team he loves. A poor 2021 likely ends his Kansas City career—there are too many talented young hurlers needing a roster spot. A good first half increases his midsummer market value and, consequently, the likelihood of a trade. Only the money remaining on his $15.5 million 2021 salary could stand in the way, but the Royals might eat some of that cash if the return value is sufficient.
If Duffy isn’t pitching well by the time July rolls around, though, it won’t matter.