TODAY: Duffy will likely remain active through the end of the week before having the surgery, Topkin tweets.
YESTERDAY: Newly-acquired Rays infielder Matt Duffy is expected to undergo season-ending surgery, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The procedure would “address the lingering soreness stemming from his earlier left Achilles injury,” per the report.
Duffy, acquired as the headliner in the swap that sent Matt Moore to the Giants, has continued to struggle at the plate since heading to Tampa Bay. All told, he owns only a .260/.312/.360 batting line over 364 plate appearances on the year. He has hit five long balls and swiped eight bases, though he has also been caught five times after going 12-for-12 on stolen base attempts a year ago.
The Rays are obviously banking on a return to form at the plate. Duffy benefited from a .336 BABIP in 2015, but nevertheless impressed with a solid .295/.334/.428 batting line. Even with some regression, a slightly above-average bat would conceivably make Duffy a highly valuable asset, as he rated as an outstanding defender at third with strong baserunning contributions last year. There are some questions there, too, however: Duffy hasn’t compiled stellar metrics since converting to short, though it’s a very small sample and he had primarily played at the hot corner of late, and his baserunning numbers took a huge dive in 2016 (-3.0 BsR, per Fangraphs).
Certainly, the nagging injury could go a ways toward explaining Duffy’s assorted struggles. He told Topkin that the soreness has lingered, with particular problems when playing on the turf infield at Tropicana Field. A surgical option has been on the table since June, the infielder noted, but the timeline for making a decision had shortened. “The only thing would be the recovery time,” said Duffy. “We want to be 100 percent sure that we’re ready to go by next season. I guess that’s one of the concerns.”
Tampa Bay still has plenty of time to make good on its end of the bargain, and certainly won’t be overly concerned with keeping Duffy on the field late this year with the postseason out of reach. The club controls him for four more seasons, and will be obligated only for the league minimum in 2017.
The need to replace Duffy for the rest of the season presents the Rays with many options, which Topkin details. Tim Beckham and Taylor Motter do not appear ticketed for the majors, he says, which could open the door for a move back to short for Brad Miller and/or some time there for Nick Franklin. Another player who could get a chance is prospect Daniel Robertson, though Topkin suggests the club may actually be “more likely” to go outside the organization and add a short-term veteran such as Alexei Ramirez.