The Royals parted ways with one of the faces of their franchise this evening, announcing a trade to send Danny Duffy to the Dodgers in exchange for a player to be named later. Kansas City will include an undisclosed amount of cash to offset some or all of his remaining salary. To create 40-man roster space, the Dodgers designated outfielder DJ Peters for assignment.
Duffy had full no-trade rights as a 10-and-5 player (one with ten years of major league service, the five most recent having been with the same team). However, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported a few weeks ago the Southern California native might be willing waive that protection to facilitate a deal to a West Coast club. That has indeed proven to be the case. The southpaw is currently on the 10-day injured list with a flexor strain in his throwing forearm, but Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore told reporters this week he’d be able to return at some point this season, perhaps near the end of August.
The move brings to an end — at least temporarily — Duffy’s long tenure in the Royals organization. Kansas City selected him out of high school in the third round of the 2007 draft. He made his big league debut in 2011 and has been with the club for over a decade, crossing the ten-year service milestone last month.
It was an unequivocally successful Kansas City tenure for Duffy, who emerged as a fixture in the rotation for almost the entirety of that time. He’s pitched to a 3.95 ERA across 1172 1/3 innings over the course of his career. A key piece of the Royals’ 2015 World Series championship team, Duffy signed a five-year, $65MM extension in January 2017.
That deal expires at the end of the season, though. With the Royals in fourth place in the AL Central, there’s plenty of sense in moving his final few months of team control to add some younger talent. For Duffy, the trade serves him well geographically and gives him an opportunity to pitch in a pennant race at the end of the year.
Of course, nothing stops the Royals from pursuing a reunion with Duffy this winter. He’s beloved amongst team personnel and fans. It seems that’s reciprocated, as the 32-year-old has gone on record in the past about his affinity for the organization and the city. The Royals haven’t been shy about pursuing free agent reunions with members of their mid-2010’s teams in recent years, and it’s possible they’ll take a similar course of action with Duffy during the upcoming offseason.
For the stretch run, the Dodgers are adding a pitcher who quietly had a fantastic start to the year — one that contributed to the Royals’ league-best record over the first few weeks of the season. Through his first seven starts, Duffy tossed 41 2/3 innings of 1.94 ERA/2.34 FIP ball. He struck out a lofty 28.2% of opposing hitters in that time against a tiny 7.1% walk rate and looked to have returned to the mid-rotation form he showed during his peak seasons.
Duffy landed on the IL with a flexor strain on May 17 and missed around five weeks. He built back arm strength on the fly upon his return, working shorter stints at the big league level rather than embarking upon a rehab assignment. Duffy stretched back out to five innings by early July, but he eventually went down with the same injury and landed on the IL on July 20.
It’s not clear how much volume Los Angeles can expect from Duffy, given that he won’t have much time to rehab from his latest injury. The Dodgers have been known to be on the hunt for starting pitching, but it’s also possible they activate Duffy as a multi-inning relief weapon. Whatever the role, the hope is he’ll be able to help the Dodgers in their battle with the Giants and Padres for the NL West and during their postseason run. The Duffy addition didn’t deter the Dodgers from putting together a prospect package likely to land Max Scherzer from the Nationals.
Duffy is making $15.5MM this season, around $5.4MM of which remains to be paid. It’s not precisely clear how much of the tab the Royals are picking up. Duffy’s luxury tax figure (calculated by the contract’s average annual value, not actual salary) is $13MM — so he carries an approximate $4.5MM luxury number the rest of the way. The Dodgers have already exceeded $260MM in luxury tax obligations, according to Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. That puts them in the highest bracket, so they’ll pay a 62.5% tax on any expenditures they take on this summer (on Duffy’s contract and other potential acquisitions).
To determine their return, the Royals will be free to choose from an agreed-upon list of players in the Dodgers’ system. They’ll have up to six months to make a decision, with the PTBNL setup particularly helpful for teams to continue to evaluate prospects after last year’s minor league season was canceled. Players selected in the 2021 draft cannot be traded as players to be named later until after the season is finished.
Peters has long been considered one of the more interesting position player prospects in the Dodgers organization. His combination of big raw power and speed has impressed scouts, and he’s generally been productive at the minor league level despite a sky-high strikeout rate. That hasn’t been the case this season, though, as the right-handed hitter has stumbled to a .223/.319/.372 line over 204 plate appearances with Triple-A Oklahoma City.
The Dodgers could trade Peters before tomorrow’s deadline. If they don’t, he’ll find himself on waivers. Between his proximity to the big leagues (Peters actually made a brief debut this year), decent prospect pedigree, and pair of remaining minor league option years, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he finds himself on another roster in the coming days.
Jeff Passan of ESPN first reported that Duffy was being traded to the Dodgers. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported the Royals would receive a player to be named later. Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported the inclusion of cash in the deal.