The Tampa Bay organization explored the trade market for Duffy before making the move to designate him and clearly didn’t find much in the way of interest. The 28-year-old (29 in January) was projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $2.9MM in what would’ve been his final trip through the arbitration process, and after he was limited to just 46 unproductive games in 2019, other clubs apparently didn’t find him to be a particularly palatable option — even in a buy-low capacity.
Injuries have devastated what looked early on to be a promising career for Duffy. The 2012 18th-round pick debuted to minimal fanfare with the Giants in 2014, but his 2015 season earned him a runner-up showing in National League Rookie of the Year voting. Duffy slashed .295/.334/.428 with 12 homers, 28 doubles, six triples and 12 steals (in 12 tries) that year — all while playing brilliantly rated defense at third base. He got off to a slow start in 2016 but was still highly regarded enough that the Rays acquired him as a focal point in the trade that sent lefty Matt Moore to San Francisco.
Duffy was injured at the time of the trade but returned to make his Rays debut in mid August. However, he was only able to suit up for 21 games before that same Achilles injury ended his season and ultimately required surgical repair. While he was recovering from that surgery, Duffy underwent a second procedure to remove loose bodies from his heel. He ultimately missed the entire 2017 season.
Duffy dealt with a hamstring injury in 2018 but was healthy for most of the season and in many ways resembled the player the Rays initially hoped they’d acquired. His already modest power was notably absent, but Duffy hit for average and got on base (.294/.361/.368 in 560 plate appearances) while playing quality defense in the eyes of Ultimate Zone Rating. Hamstring issues once again sidelined Duffy for much of the 2019 season, however, and the Rays turned to other options in his absence — most notably Yandy Diaz and Mike Brosseau.
Now that he’s a free agent, Duffy should find other clubs with interest on minor league pacts or perhaps on incentive-laden deals with a lower base rate than his previously projected level of pay. Although he’s never consistently hit for power in the Majors, Duffy has generally shown the ability to hit for a high average (which helps to mitigate his pedestrian walk rate) and has shown good bat-to-ball skills (16.1 percent career strikeout rate). Paired with a well-regarded glove at third base and the ability to handle shortstop as well, that should pique the interest of a team with some needs on the left side of the infield.