Lucas Duda Goes to Kauffman
Before the World Series, Vin Scully would go to church to pray that there would be only heroes, no goats. Baseball isn’t always cooperative, and sometimes a fanbase remembers the foibles of its opponents more than the feats of its team. Such is the case, as you might have heard in the media coverage, with Royals fans and Lucas Duda, who signed a one-year deal Wednesday. A few seasons earlier, Duda pulled a throw wide of home plate, allowing Eric Hosmer to score the tying run in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series. Now the No. 42 FanGraphs free agent is off the table and Kansas City fans are confronted with a player whose flaws they are intimately familiar with.
Duda’s 32-year-old body is not much to blame for his defensive weakness, though that body does often keep him off the field with injury, hence the incentives added to the $3.5 million deal. He is better with a glove than his reputation might suggest, but his value is reliant on his offensive power.
When he’s healthy, he’s a legitimate hitter, something the Royals lineup was missing after a mass departure of free agents, including first baseman Hosmer. He’s coming off a career-worst season in strikeouts and average, though, and his splits against lefties and relievers aren’t great either. But, hey, it’s possible that freedom from the pitcher-friendly confines of Tropicana Field and a home in the more neutral confines of Kauffman Stadium might help rediscover his power.
The problem of his split numbers can be remedied with a platoon from one of the other three players, Hunter Dozier, Ryan O’Hearn and Frank Schwindel, who were contending for the first base slot before his arrival. The Royals get an upgrade over internal options for less money than Duda was expected to command. Incentives reportedly take the contract up to $5 million, half of what Dave Cameron predicted for the same timeframe. The Royals didn’t break the transaction boards, but they got better and maybe a small, kind-of redemption story.