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Yankees Potential Trade Target: Danny Duffy

Will the Yankees target the Royals’ lefty as an upgrade to the rotation?

Minnesota Twins v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Yankees are looking for stability up and down their roster. Injuries have decimated the team for the second consecutive season, but this time instead of remaining in first place the Yankees have endured a recent seven game losing streak. The injuries to James Paxton, Tommy Kahnle and Zack Britton have the Yankees looking for pitching help, and Danny Duffy from the Kansas City Royals could be part of the solution.

The Royals signed Duffy to a 5-year, $65 million deal prior to 2017. He was coming off a strong 2014-2016 stretch where he produced a combined 6.3 WAR and was a contributor on their back-to-back World Series teams. He has produced an additional 7.2 WAR so far over the the course of that contract, while pitching for a Kansas City team that has seen its position player core leave town and entered a rebuild.

That contract will expire after the 2021 season, making Duffy more than a rental. The Yankees will have three members of their rotation enter free agency after the season, and Duffy would help bridge the needs of the rotation into next year.

The left-handed pitcher is having a solid start to the 2020 season with a 4.11 ERA and a 1.057 WHIP. He is currently striking out a career high 10.3 batters per nine innings, and walking just 2.6.

On the positive side, he sits between the 73rd and 80th percentile of major league pitchers for strikeout percentage, xwOBA, xERA, xSLG and xBA. Those Statcast metrics show that he is doing a lot right to limit hitters, but on the negative side he rates below the 50th percentile in terms of exit velocity and hard hit rate.

With their current rash of injuries the Yankees may pause at bringing in Duffy, as he has not proved to be a workhorse over the corse of this major league career. In a career that has spanned 10 seasons, Duffy has only reached the 150 inning mark twice. He has also been on the injured list at least once in seven of the last nine seasons.

One area of Duffy’s game that could be intriguing to the Yankees is his experience working as a reliever. During the Royals playoff runs in 2014-2016, Duffy worked as a reliever 28 times during the regular season. He also pitched in this role during the teams two runs to the World Series. As a reliever he has limited opponents to a .547 OPS over the span of his career.

Duffy’s go-to pitch is the four seam fastball — which he has thrown 40% of the time in 2020. The pitch averages 92 mph, and is limiting opponents to a .153 batting average against this season. His next best pitch is the slider that he throws around 15% of the time and is limiting opponents to just a .259 SLG this season. It generates a strong 30% swing and miss rate.

Duffy has three other pitches that he throws between 13% and 16% of the time. He uses a sinker that has a very similar velocity to his fastball. The changeup and curveball are also effective pitches that give hitters a different look.

Danny Duffy could be an effective contributor for the Yankees this season if they attempt to trade for him. He has questions related to his durability, but he would also be under contract for next season when the Yankees would have spots in the rotation to fill.