The Royals and left-hander Danny Duffy have yet to engage in negotiations for a long-term deal, The Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd reports, but it seems as enough those talks could take place after the season. Royals GM Dayton Moore said talks would be held “at the appropriate time,” adding that “Danny has been a very important part of our organization and our pitching staff, and we’ll work very hard to keep him a part of what we’re doing going forward.”
For his part, Duffy is also excited at the prospect of spending potentially his entire career in Kansas City. “I don’t picture myself wearing anything but a Royals jersey….I’m not trying to pull out the violin, but I want to be here,” Duffy said. “They’ve been really good to me, good to my family. And it would just be absolutely devastating if I ever had to leave. In a perfect world, I would be here forever.”
Duffy, who turns 28 in December, is arbitration-eligible for the third and final time this coming offseason and he’ll be a free agent following the 2017 campaign. He and the Royals avoided arbitration last winter by agreeing on a one-year, $4.225MM deal, and Duffy is sure to be in line for a sizable raise given his breakout season.
After tossing a quality start and earning the win against the Twins today, Duffy now has a 2.66 ERA and 9.54 K/9 (against only 1.88 BB/9) over 138 2/3 innings in 2016. His .275 BABIP and hefty 84.1% strand rate indicate some good fortune and his 3.75 xFIP is over a run higher than his ERA, though it seems as if Duffy has finally not only solidified his place in the K.C. rotation, but could potentially become its ace. Dodd’s piece is well worth a full read, detailing how Duffy has used a newly-developed breaking ball to great effect and is now more or less bailing out the Royals’ struggling rotation.
While extension talks are usually saved for the offseason in most cases, the Royals front office may be more willing to take their time with the southpaw just to see how he finishes the full year. Duffy also pitched well in 2014 and seemed on the verge of a breakout before scuffling through much of 2015 and receiving a demotion to the bullpen in late September and through the playoffs. Innings could also be a factor, as Duffy already has one Tommy John operation under his belt and he is set to easily top his previous career high (in both the majors and minors) of 155 1/3 innings in 2014.
The coming offseason will be a particularly fascinating one for Moore given how many key Royals (Duffy, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Wade Davis) will all be free agents after the 2017 campaign, and a score of other important names (such as Alcides Escobar) could join them depending on whether or not the Royals exercise club options this winter or next. Clearly the Royals won’t be able to extend or re-sign all of those players, and there has been much discussion about how the 2016-17 seasons may be the last years of Kansas City’s so-called “contention window” with this core of players. Alex Gordon’s struggles after the Royals re-signed the homegrown star to four-year/$72MM deal last winter could also factor into the club’s wariness about other pricey contracts.
As one would expect from a smaller-market club, the Royals’ history of extensions in recent years has focused around locking up young talent to early-career deals or in gaining cost certainty over established stars by extending them through their arbitration years. (Salvador Perez’s extension from March is a bit of an outlier, given that the Royals almost seemed to be compensating the catcher for how overtly team-friendly his original contract ended up being.) It could be difficult for the Royals to convince Duffy to sign an extension and forego a big score on 2017-18 free agent market, or Duffy could be inclined to take his big payday this winter rather than risk injury or another inconsistent year in 2017.