The non-waiver trade deadline is tomorrow, and the Royals have already dealt their three most valuable assets that were scheduled to be free agents at the end of the season - Jon Jay, Kelvin Herrera, and Mike Moustakas. Dayton Moore has indicated that Whit Merrifield won’t be traded at the deadline, which also probably means other long-term assets like Danny Duffy and Salvador Perez won’t be dealt either. Jason Hammel and Ian Kennedy seem unmovable in their current state, and Alcides Escobar is virtually worthless, so that really only leaves one player left that can be traded by tomorrow - Lucas Duda.
The Royals signed Duda late in the off-season, after losing out on the Eric Hosmer sweepstakes. He was a stop-gap solution on a one-year deal, with the hope that at the very best they could flip him in July for something useful. The 32-year old got off to a good start, but quickly cooled down and missed a month with plantar fasciitis. In 64 games with the Royals, he is hitting .239/.310/.403 with nine home runs and he has been exactly replacement level, according to Fangraphs.
Duda is having the worst walk-rate and worst-strikeout rate of his career. He is pretty worthless against lefties, but can still hit a bit against righties, with a line of .259/.328/.456 this year. For a Major League veteran, Duda would come very cheap, he is only earning about $1.5 million the remainder of the season. He also might be a candidate to clear waivers in August, allowing the Royals to trade him after the non-waiver deadline on July 31.
Will Lucas Duda be traded this year?
This poll is closed
So is there a market for Lucas Duda? It would almost certainly have to be as the left-handed hitting half of a platoon or a bench bat for a National League team. With more teams carrying up to 13 pitchers on their staff, there isn’t much room for a platoon or a bench bat that can only play one position like first base. And don’t expect a big return. Duda had a .879 OPS and 17 home runs at the trade deadline last year and was dealt fo the #30 prospect in the Rays’ system.
Still, the Royals could use all the young talent they can get. Let’s try to look for some teams that could use Duda’s services.
If you look at which teams have gotten the least production from the first base position against right-handed pitchers, the Astros would be the lowest team in contention. Current first baseman Yuli Gurriel doesn’t have a platoon split, but he has been underwhelming overall this season. He also has positional versatility to play other position on days Duda is in the lineup. However the Astros also have younger, cheaper options to try out before resorting to Duda, like Tyler White or top prospect A.J. Reed. They are are reportedly interested in White Sox All-Star first baseman Jose Abreu. Outfield may also be a more pressing need right now, so Duda does not seem a particularly good fit for the defending World Champs.
New York Yankees
The Yankees were reportedly looking at Mike Moustakas as a first baseman, with Greg Bird struggling this year. The 25-year old has hit .237/.332/.462 with nine home runs in 51 games and has options remaining to work out his issues in the minors. But Duda hasn’t out-hit Bird this year, and both are left-handed hitters, so Duda seems awfully redundant on this roster. If the Yankees want to upgrade at first base, they are likely to look for much better options, otherwise a Bird/Tyler Austin platoon will probably get them by, as they hope for Aaron Judge to return before very long.
The Phillies find themselves surprisingly in first place, despite underwhelming production from big free agent first baseman Carlos Santana. The switch-hitting Santana has struggled against right-handers this year, batting .200/.359/.381. Additionally, the Phillies have been one of the worst pinch-hitting teams among National League clubs this year. A young team like the Phillies could use additional veterans to bolster their bench and give them more options come October. Think of Duda in the same role Josh Willingham provided for the young Royals in 2014. It wouldn’t take much to acquire Duda, and his low salary could be attractive. Perhaps the longtime Met could find himself back in the National League East, playing for the City of Brotherly Love.
The Mariners have 27-year old Ryon Healy, a masher with 21 home runs who can’t draw a walk to save his life. The Royals were reportedly interested in the right-handed slugger who is hitting .240/.272/.459 this year. Healy has actually hit better against right-handed hitters, so he may not be a good candidate for a platoon. The Mariners are expecting Robinson Cano back from his suspension in August, and they expect him to move to first base to make room for Dee Gordon at second base. That would actually make for an even more crowded situation should Duda be in the mix. But Cano is ineligible for post-season play, so if the Mariners end up dealing Healy for something, they would need a first baseman to fill in for the rest of the season. This scenario seems to require some moving parts, so it seems unlikely, but the Mariners have a 17-year post-season drought, so who knows what kind of measures they’ll take to make it to October.