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Cubs trade target: Danny Duffy

Here’s a lefthander the Cubs could probably obtain at a low cost in prospects.

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to shoring up the bullpen, the Cubs have been rumored to be looking at helping out the starting rotation, what with Yu Darvish out for an indefinite time and Tyler Chatwood still somewhat ineffective.

Here’s a rumor from earlier Tuesday:

The Orioles are notoriously hard to trade with, though they did make a pretty good swap in sending Manny Machado to the Dodgers last week. It seems to me that Baltimore’s asking price for Zach Britton or either of the two starters mentioned in Ken Rosenthal’s tweet might be too high.

So what if the Cubs took a different tack? Another team looking at a lost season and likely willing to start dealing players is the Royals. And so I’d think Danny Duffy, who the Cubs have expressed interest in multiple times over the last couple of years, could be a good trade target.

Duffy got off to a rough start this year but over his last 11 starts: 2.58 ERA, 1.234 WHIP, 69⅓ innings pitched (an average of 6⅓ innings per start over that span!), only five home runs allowed.

Here’s the potential issue — or maybe it’s a good thing — about Duffy. He’s under contract to the Royals for three more years after 2018, for a total of $46 million. That’s not too unreasonable, actually, for a pitcher of that caliber. Duffy’s $14 million deal for 2018 has about $5.4 million remaining. It looks like Duffy’s “cap hit” is equal to his salary, per this spreadsheet at Cot’s.

Could the Cubs add $5.4 million to this year’s payroll without going over the $197 million luxury tax threshold? Based on this analysis I did about two months ago, the answer appears to be “yes.”

If the Royals are going to try to trade off pieces and rebuild (and they have had interest expressed in Mike Moustakas and Whit Merrifield, among others), and the Cubs would take on Duffy’s entire contract, it probably wouldn’t take more than a couple of mid-level lottery tickets from the Cubs farm system to get it done. The Cubs would be getting three more years of Duffy, his age 30-32 seasons.

I’d be inclined to do this, if all of those things check out. Duffy’s last three starts, in particular, have been outstanding: 0.45 ERA, 1.150 WHIP, no home runs in 20 innings, 21 strikeouts. Here’s video of Duffy (and other Royals highlights) from his start last Friday against the Twins, seven strong innings in which he allowed one run.

Earlier this afternoon BCB’s Tim Huwe made the case for not making any deals. But this one just might make sense.


Should the Cubs trade for Danny Duffy, picking up his entire contract?

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