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Milwaukee Brewers trade target: Danny Duffy

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Once a vaunted starter, a large contract, injuries, pitch tipping, and bad decision making have taken their toll on his value

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Atlanta Braves Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The trade deadline is less than one week away. Milwaukee ace, Brandon Woodruff, is out for the next six weeks or more. Now Jhoulys Chacin is hurt. The Brewers’ rotation is Zach Davies, Chase Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, and ????. The Brewers have a couple of off days that will allow them to manage the absences in the short-term, but they will have to fill those innings somehow.

The obvious move to make is to trade for a starter prior to the July 31 deadline. David Stearns indicated that a trade might, but might not happen even with the injury. From his standpoint, the market will dictate how he responds.

The word on the street is that this is a seller’s market. If it is, names like Marcus Stroman, Madison Bumgarner, Mike Minor, and Matt Boyd could be too expensive for Milwaukee. If that is a reality, Stearns might find value in pitchers that are underperforming this season or are just flying under the radar. One such pitcher that is flying under the radar is the Kansas City Royal’s Danny Duffy.

There has been very little discussion about Danny Duffy in the trade rumor space. One reason for that is his contract. While controllable until 2021, he is owed $15.25M in 2020 and $15.5M in 2021 plus the remainder of his salary for 2019. For a trade to occur with Milwaukee, Kansas City would have to eat significant salary. Kansas City is likely up for that as they have indicated that Duffy and the rest of their team for the most part are available.

As I mentioned coming into 2018, Duffy was said to be available, but the Royals desire was a major prospect package in return. As has been the case in a multitude of other potential trade scenarios, the Royals probably waited one year too late and asked for too much in return. While similar scenarios play out in Detroit and Toronto, the asking price for Duffy will be significantly less than it was at the beginning of 2018.

Prior to 2018, Duffy was considered an electric left-handed arm. However, 2018 became a season to forget for him. In that season, Duffy was able to cover 155 innings while striking out a respectable 8.19 per 9. The major difference for Duffy in 2018 versus previous seasons was his walk rate which was 4.06 per 9, which resulted in an jump in ERA to 4.88.

BB/9 and ERA over career for Danny Duffy

In 2019, his BB/9 is still pretty high at 3.21, but not nearly as bad as 2018. On top of that, it seems that he may be getting a handle on the number of hitters he walks as the season wears on.

Danny Duffy BB% 2019

Pitch tipping became a concern for Duffy in 2018. As a result, he started pitching from the windup as well as the stretch early in the 2018 season. Evidently that did not work, because later in the season he went back to pitching exclusively from the stretch to avoid, guess what, tipping his pitches. In fact, nothing really helped as he suffered from inconsistency throughout a frustrating season for him, and he ended up cutting the season a bit short due to shoulder impingement. Pitching through the shoulder pain that would come along with such an injury might offer a better explanation for subpar results.

2019 has been better, but there is reason for concern. His fastball velocity has dipped by one whole mph in 2019 versus 2018. Recovery from the shoulder impingement might be a reason for that. Yet could there be something more long-term going on?

Duffy has a five pitch arsenal that has worked to varying degrees over his career. His change up has been a great pitch for him throughout his career, and his slider has worked well for him. His secondary stuff generally carried the left-hander to his effectiveness.

Duffy pitch arsenal

Evidently, Duffy had issues with secondary pitches in 2018 with 61 and 54 point rises in batting average against on his change up and slider respectively. As mentioned , both pitches were regarded as good on the slider to dominant with the change. The slider seems to still be giving him some problekms in 2019, but the change up is working well. The problem is, he is not throwing it very much. Might that be an opportunity for increased performance, especially based on the fact that his change up in previous seasons has been so good?

Duffy pitch type performance 2018 and 2019

Danny Duffy was a once vaunted starting pitcher that was perceived with high regard as recently as 2018. He is a prime candidate for a return to something approaching previous norms, especially if he is able to continue getting his walk rate down, increase his change up usage, and possibly tweak some mechanics and/or focus to get the type of bite on his slider and curve that he is capable of. Speaking of focus, he is also almost two years removed from his DUI incident that likely took a mental toll going into 2018. Logic would suggest that he is in a better place mentally.

He has a significant issue as previously alluded to. He has a contract that makes things more difficult for a deal to get done. For the Brewers and Royals to match up on a trade, significant dollars would have to be absorbed by Kansas City. Kansas City is a franchise much like Milwaukee. They have to think about their budget more than big market teams when making deals.

If the Royals would rather dump salary, Milwaukee is probably not a good match. If Kansas City wants to eat some of that salary for a decent prospect package, there might be a fit. Duffy’s value is as low as it ever has been at a trade deadline. Could these two small market organizations make a deal that works for both parties? A lot would have to work out, but it is not out of the realm of possibility.

Baseball statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Savant