According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports and confirmed by the organization, the Kansas City Royals have reached an agreement on a contract extension with Danny Duffy. The deal is reportedly worth five years and $65 million. The lefty was scheduled to become a free agent for the first time following the 2017 season, and this deal will keep him in Royals blue through the 2021 season.
Duffy will earn $5 million in 2017, $14 million in 2018, $15.25 million each in 2019 and 2020 and $15.5 million in 2021. The backloading of this deal is not unexpected and should allow the Royals to continue in their search to upgrade the bullpen.
Duffy’s 2016 was a breakout season for him that saw him go 12-3 with a 3.51 ERA in 42 games, 26 of which were starts and spanned a career-high 179.2 innings. After starting the season in the bullpen, Duffy was called upon in the rotation out of necessity and struck out 167 batters while walking just 37 in 161.2 innings as a starter. While he faltered a bit down the stretch, Duffy went 11-1 with a 2.61 ERA in his first 19 starts with a better than 5:1 strikeout to walk ratio.
The Royals selected Duffy in the third round of the 2007 draft and he was part of the vaunted Royals farm system that was thought of as one of the best ever seen. He made his big league debut in 2011 and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012. Since coming back in 2013, Duffy has posted a 3.29 ERA in 490 innings pitched between the rotation (80 starts) and the bullpen (28 relief appearances).
This move is not without risk, of course. Duffy has yet to put together a full season of effectiveness as a starting pitcher in the big leagues. His two best seasons both began as a relief pitcher before shifting to the rotation, and his career high in innings of 179.2 lends to questions to his durability. He’s also dealt with back issues and rib issues in addition to his Tommy John Surgery in 2012. That’s not to say he’s necessarily injury prone, but he has shown that staying healthy, while not a given for anyone, is far from a certainty for the left-hander.
That said, a lefty who is just 28-years old and possesses a 95 MPH fastball to go along with a slider and changeup that have both been getting better is something every team wants and wants for quite some time. The plus side to his career high in innings being relatively low is that Duffy’s arm has less innings on it than you’d typically see with most guys in his situation.
For a team that has a chance to look very different following the 2017 season, locking Duffy up to a long-term deal helps to make the transition to the future a little bit easier. They now have him, Yordano Ventura and Nate Karns guaranteed to be a part of the rotation (and maybe Ian Kennedy, too) and have Salvador Perez, Jorge Soler and Alex Gordon to anchor the position players once so much of this current Royals core reaches free agency.
One thing is for certain. The man who appears to be ticketed to take the ball on Opening Day for the Royals will be a member of the organization for years to come. The man who requested to be buried a Royal and who has become a fan favorite will be in the fold for a little longer now. All long-term deals, especially for pitchers, carry risk, but this is one I like for both the player and the organization.