As he prepares for what KC Royals fans hope will be an eventful offseason and ponders how to improve a KC Royals pitching staff suffering from season-long distress, expect J.J. Picollo to actively pursue several player moves.
He has no choice. Last week’s departure of Dayton Moore sent a message—principal owner John Sherman has grown impatient and is eager to see his team move forward and into contention.
Whether Picollo, who for years worked alongside Moore on the baseball operations side of the franchise, will employ many, or any, of his former boss’ methods remains to be seen. One he might not abandon, though, is the reclamation project, Moore’s signature approach to finding diamonds in the rough of troubled veteran pitchers.
Moore liked to sign free agent pitchers recovering from career-derailing injuries and fighting to recapture old forms. He’d sign them to low-cost minor league deals and hope for the best; sometimes it worked, at least for awhile (Greg Holland, Trevor Rosenthal), and sometimes it didn’t (Wade Davis).
Now, Picollo is at the controls and might get the chance to take on a reclamation project of his own. A popular former Royals pitcher could soon be on the market.
Danny Duffy is a pitcher the KC Royals could consider signing this winter.
Fitting the mold of the classic Moore reclamation project is Duffy, a Kansas City fan favorite the club suddenly shipped to the Dodgers in an unorthodox trade deadline deal last year.
Two things made the move unusual. Despite having one of the best seasons of his career and emerging as the leader of a struggling and inexperienced rotation, Duffy was on the Injured List for the second time with a left flexor strain, sometimes a precursor of more serios problems, when the Royals and Dodgers made the deal. And Duffy was an apparent KC lifer who years before had strongly suggested he wanted to spend his career with the Royals.
The Dodgers’ gamble on an injured pitcher didn’t pay off. Duffy didn’t make it back last year, had offseason surgery, and the club reportedly ended his injury rehabilitation assignment recently.
That, together with his contract status, makes it all but certain that, should Duffy wish to continue his career, it won’t be as a Dodger. He hasn’t thrown a single big league pitch for Los Angeles and the Dodgers aren’t likely to pick up the $7 million club option they hold. If they don’t, he’ll be a free agent.
Should the Royals consider pursuing him if he’s on the market?
They certainly have to be thinking about it. Duffy is, by all appearances, a Royal through and through, a man who was clearly content and happy in Kansas City. His rehab assignment wasn’t a disaster—pitching seven times across three minor league levels, he struck out 11 and walked four in 6.2 innings, and the three runs he gave up in two-thirds of an inning Sept. 6 are the main reason his ERA was 5.40.
And another post-injury, post-surgery winter could make a big difference for him.
So, the Royals will surely at least consider signing Duffy to a low risk, possibly high reward, deal if Los Angeles doesn’t keep him and he wants to continue pitching.
Will Danny Duffy be a Royal again? Stay tuned.