Anthony Rendon is right there, guys. He wants a lot of money that he rightfully deserves, and the Indians organization is worth a lot of money. It stands to reason that the two could come together and plug a gaping infield hole.
But also ... Matt Duffy.
Duffy was recently designated for assignment by the Tampa Bay Rays as part of their roster crunch ahead of the Rule 5 draft, and he has all the markings of a future Cleveland Indians veteran lottery ticket. At 28 years old, he is technically entering the prime of his career — as opposed to the Rajai Davis, Austin Jacksons, and Mike Napolis of years past — but he’s not exactly surging.
He had a breakout season of sorts with the giants in 2015 when he slashed .295/.334/.428 with 12 home runs and a 113 wRC+; all while playing solid third-base defense. It was a surprise to just about everyone, and suddenly the Giants had a folk hero on their hands.
He struggled to start the 2016 season, however, his limited power dipped even further, and his ability to pull the ball in the air seemingly disappeared. Grant Brisbee wrote an excellent recap of what exactly went wrong with Duffy to start the season. To me, it reads with bright neon letters: THIS MIGHT BE FIXABLE.
The Giants didn’t want to be the ones to do it, however, and they shipped Duffy to Tampa Bay in exchange for their own failed prospect, left-handed pitcher Matt Moore.
Duffy was a fan-favorite in San Francisco, both for his surprising 2015 campaign, and for having a generally likable personality (he also had a ginormous cat that everybody loved). That didn’t quite carry over to the Rays as he didn’t put anything together that matched his ever-so-brief peak. He would miss the entire 2017 season with an Achilles injury, and following an above-average 2018 season, his production slipped in another injury-shortened campaign in 2019 in which he played just 46 games and slashed a pedestrian .252/.343/.327. The lack of pull power that Grant Brisbee noticed in 2016 has to this point stuck around for Duffy.
All of that sounds like a guy that isn’t going to contribute a whole lot to a team with World Series aspirations, so why would the Indians want him? Well, he’s cheap. All the same factors that led to him being DFA’d by the Rays are the same ones that will likely make him sign a very small major-league deal, or even a minor-league flyer somewhere. It’s right up the Indians’ alley.
And, truth be told, there could be something there. The idea of getting a 28-year-old who has already had two above-average offensive seasons is pretty enticing — not to mention his hard-hit rate has slowly ticked up in recent seasons, from 23.4% in his rookie year to 36.1% in 2019. It’s not much, but it’s something. He also plays a position the Indians need in third base, and he plays it pretty well. At the very least, he could serve as a stop-gap between now and the onset of Nolan Jones.
We won’t know for at least a few days, as the Rays have until next week to either trade or grant him his release if he doesn’t accept the assignment. At that point, the Indians can swoop in and ink him to a cheap-as-possible deal and hope something magic happens.
The sooner we accept this reality, the better. And the sooner the Indians sign everybody except Jacoby Ellsbury, the better.