Is KC Royals hurler Danny Duffy pitching well enough to stay with the club?
The crossroads approaches for Danny Duffy. It wasn’t even on the horizon four calendar years ago, when he and the KC Royals were in the first of their five season, $65 million relationship. But now, the career juncture marking the end of that deal gets closer with every game Duffy pitches.
When that end comes—at the annual July trade deadline, or after the season concludes—Duffy will find out whether he’ll realize his well-chronicled desire to end his career as a Royal.
The decision will not be his. This is the final campaign of Duffy’s mega-deal, and there is no unilateral player option for him to exercise. No matter how he performs this season, it’s the Royals who hold all the cards. They will determine, for all practical purposes, whether to continue or terminate the relationship pitcher and team began when KC picked him in the 2007 amateur draft.
The ball is, and will remain, in the court of principal owner John Sherman and General Manager Dayton Moore, who will decide at some point if Duffy merits more time in Kansas City. Whether they and Duffy have even broached the subject is, as are most aspects of the Royals’ club-player relationships, not yet available for public consumption. This front office plays close to the vest, which explains why Hunter Dozier’s lucrative early extension came out of the blue and Salvador Perez’s club record-setting extension remained quiet until announced.
What is known is a decision about Duffy must be made at the right time. It won’t be that long before the Royals need to start thinking about July, when teams decide whether to buy, sell, or stand pat at the trade deadline.
Duffy won’t make that decision, but he’ll drive it. Poor pitching will keep him off the trade market, and probably simplify KC’s year-end decision; Sherman won’t be blamed if he declines to invest more millions in a non-performing hurler who once again doesn’t quite justify that $65 million.
Good pitching, however, will make him marketable—to land an effective stretch run starter, contending clubs will tempt the Royals with prospects. But if Kansas City is among those contending teams, the temptation will be to keep Duffy. At this point, it’s too early to tell what will happen, although the Royals are enjoying an atypically decent April and lead the American League Central through Tuesday’s games.
And Duffy is a new version of himself. He suffered a loss not principally of his own making Monday when the two unearned runs he gave up made the difference in a 4-1 Tampa win, and he struck out eight—including his 1,000th career strikeout—in six innings. The start was his third good one in as many tries, he’s 2-1, and his 0.50 ERA and 863 ERA+ led the American League through Monday’s contests.
The times Duffy’s pitched this well since 2016, when his 12-3 record spurred his current five-year deal, are few and far between. He’s laying the foundation for a compelling case to stay in Kansas City.
But will that case, assuming it stays solid, be one to remain a Royal, or one that lands him on the trade block come July? (Duffy entered the season 87 days short of “10 & 5” status but should attain it sometime in June, meaning that as a player with 10 years of major league service time and the last five with the same club, he’ll be able to veto any trade, a power players rarely exercise even if they don’t want to move).
Time, the Royals, and Duffy’s performance will tell. Things could get quite interesting.
Will the KC Royals keep Danny Duffy? It’s early in a long season, but so far he’s certainly giving them reason to.