The Royals have signed first baseman Lucas Duda to a one-year, $3.5 million deal, according to FanRag reporter Jon Heyman. The 32-year old left-handed hitter is likely the favorite to start at first base for the Royals, who had Hunter Dozier, Ryan O’Hearn, and Frank Schwindel contending for playing time there.
Duda is best-known to Royals fans as the Mets first baseman whose wild throw in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series allowed Eric Hosmer to score on an infield grounder. Duda is not considered to have a good glove, but has very good power, smacking 30 home runs last season. In 127 games between the Mets and Rays, he hit .217/.322/.496 and was a 1.1 WAR player according to Fangraphs. He has always been a low-average hitter with good power and a solid walk rate of 11% while striking out 24% of the time in his career.
Royals get basically little older Eric Hosmer for $140M less. pic.twitter.com/voHGUFPCxB— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) February 28, 2018
Duda has a pretty big platoon split, and may have to sit against lefties, which could allow Hunter Dozier to platoon with him if he makes the club. The ZIPS projection system predicts him to hit .229/.331/.471 as a 1.5 WAR player.
I had called on the Royals to go very young and forgo signing free agents, but signing Duda may make some sense. Hunter Dozier is 26 and needs a chance, but he was also hurt much of last year and may need to some minor league action to get his career back on track. Ryan O’Hearn is probably still a year away, and Frank Schwindel has questions about his plate discipline. I think you could still see Dozier or Schwindel up to platoon with Duda some time this year.
Duda gives the Royals at least one legitimate bat in their lineup, although his upside isn’t all that high. As far as expecting him to be a trade piece, the Mets dealt him last summer for a pretty fringy minor league relief pitcher, so I wouldn’t expect Duda to have all that much value. The market is clearly moving away from older players who hit home runs. Some fans may have preferred Logan Morrison - who signed a $6.5 million deal with the Twins earlier this week - but Duda is actually a pretty similar player.
Update: To make room for Duda on the roster, the Royals have designated outfielder Billy Burns for assignment.
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