The Kansas City Royals signed Danny Duffy to a contract this week, putting him on a deal that extends through the 2021 season. The press conference regarding the deal said a lot of things, including the fact that Duffy didn’t want to leave, that the organization wanted him long-term, and that the southpaw never really considered testing free agency.
The history of Danny Duffy and the Royals organization is a long, rocky road. At one point, he left the game. He later underwent Tommy John surgery. He made a dozen relief appearances between 2014 and 2015, owed in part to injury and to the team’s desire to have him in the bullpen during the playoffs.
Throughout all of this, Duffy has always been a Company Man, and the organization has showed a remarkable amount of faith in him as a pitcher.
The contract itself takes all of these things into consideration, and it would be reasonable to suggest that Duffy took a hometown discount to stick around. The
These are all good reasons for why the deal was good, but doesn’t really begin to strike at the true necessity of making this move.
Royals Review has written, at length, about the difficulties of the Royals organization in player development. The most notable area of lack has been starting pitching. The two arms you can point to that have shown some success in the major leagues have been Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy.
Ventura has been on a downward trend, struggling all of last season to limit hard contact and to generate strikeouts, the latter of which is the most concerning. Ventura signed a long-term deal prior to last season, and his first year under the deal was a washout.
Duffy excelled last season, save for a bit of a struggle to close out the year. He posted a new club record for strikeouts in a game. He topped the team in wins (12) with only three losses. He led the team in strikeouts, despite pitching fewer innings than Ian Kennedy, Edinson Volquez, and Yordano Ventura. Among qualified starters, he led in ERA and Wins Above Replacement.
It makes sense for the Royals to sign Duffy long-term, particularly when the deal he signed pays him less than the deal Ian Kennedy signed last year. It makes sense, from a company perspective, to reward the guys that perform for the organization. But more so than all of that, it makes sense for the team to make strides in retaining the players at the position where they have historically struggled to develop them.
Indeed, re-signing Duffy was much less a luxury as it was a necessity. Contract details aside — which are pretty favorable to the club — the organization needs Duffy, and they need him to perform. Because the prospect pipeline for starting pitching is remarkable in its barrenness, following the dealings of Sean Manaea, Cody Reed, and others. Combined with Kyle Zimmer’s continuing waltz with injuries and the struggles of recent draftees, there isn’t a whole lot to get excited about.
Rotation stability is something that was distinctly lacking last season, and it has been a decided question mark of the organization prior to their recent bout of success. Between Duffy, Ventura, Kennedy, Karns, and most likely Jason Vargas, there isn’t really a question as to who will be in the rotation to start next season. All of those pitchers, save for Jason Vargas, are also under club control for 2018 and 2019.
That’s a long-term outlook that the Royals rotation hasn’t had in a really long time.