The Royals have officially struck a deal with free agent first baseman Lucas Duda, as Robert Murray of Fan Rag first reported (via Twitter). The deal promises the Beverly Hill Sports Council client $3.5MM, per Fan Rag’s Jon Heyman (Twitter links).
Rather achievable incentives can also boost that salary. Per MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan, Duda will receive $100K upon reaching 300 plate appearances and can take down another $100K with every twenty-five trips to the dish thereafter, topping out at 600 plate appearances and a total potential $1.3MM in additional earnings.
It seems, then, that the veteran Duda will function as the replacement for the departing Eric Hosmer. The 32-year-old Duda is significantly older, and wasn’t as productive as Hosmer in 2017, but has actually been a better offensive performer over the two players’ respective careers.
Depending upon how one slices the numbers, it’s possible to paint a more pessimistic or optimistic picture of Duda’s track record and near-future outlook. He struggled through an injury-filled 2016 season and fell off down the stretch last year after a mid-season trade. On the other hand, he hit quite well at the outset of the 2017 campaign and slashed a robust .249/.350/.483 over the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
Despite a less-than-exciting finish to the season after a mid-2017 deal from the Mets to the Rays, Duda still ended with a well-above-average .217/.322/.496 overall output with thirty home runs. That came in spite of posting only a .238 batting average on balls in play.
Of course, Duda also reverted to struggling badly against left-handed pitching after having improved in that area in 2015. For his career, Duda carries an 84 wRC+ when hitting without the platoon advantage. Clearly, then, it’d be preferable for K.C. to give him a rest against southpaws.
Despite the caveats, it’s a bargain rate for a player who has been quite productive at the plate while receiving approximately average grades for his glovework at first. Duda may not be an adequate replacement for Hosmer in the leadership or baserunning departments, but it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see him out-hit the man he’ll replace.