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Matt Duffy: Cubs long-term piece, or trade piece?

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Could the Cubs have lucked into some talent here?

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Through my years of following Cubs games, and baseball in general, the entire “live or die on each win or loss” has largely gone away. Whether the owners and executive do their jobs well or not, some teams will compete or misfire, either way. Some moves will pan out, and others won’t. Despite logic, numbers, or emotions. At some point, I became very comfortable dealing with baseball as a string of decisions, leading to an increased or decreased likelihood of success. More good decisions should lead to more wins, eventually. The lean seasons create more time to assess the decisions. One minor move the Cubs made this offseason has panned out so far. Is Matt Duffy a long-term piece, or a July swap?

Duffy was an 18th Round Giants pick in 2012 (the same round the Cubs chose David Bote) from Long Beach State, and he debuted for the World Series Champs in August 2014. The next year, he lagged behind only Kris Bryant in National League Rookie Of The Year voting. In 2016, he was traded to the Rays in the Matt Moore swap. Injuries ruined most of his time in Tampa. The Cubs signed Duffy to a minor-league deal in December 2020, and he broke camp with the parent club.

A reverse-split guy, historically, Duffy started 2021 in a bit of a funk against everyone. He was 1-for-11 early, with only one walk. His hit had come in his only start. With the injury to Joc Pederson, given regular time, Duffy’s offense has perked to life. With Ian Happ’s injury on Sunday, Duffy looks to have a few more days of job security, at least. He’s currently hitting .271/.397/.313 (13-for-48) with two doubles and two stolen bases. The .710 OPS is close to his career number (.718).

Looking at baseball long-term as opposed to short-term, I have one question in mind that’s entirely valid, though not entirely crystalized. Is Duffy a July trade piece, or a longer-term keeper? He’s a free agent after 2021. With some uncertainty for 2022, any extension might be of questionable team value. Nonetheless, if Duffy stays healthy, him remaining in the lineup seems plausible if he keeps up his numbers. As to July, if Duffy keeps playing strongly, what sort of value would he have?

In a recently completed swap between the Blue Jays and Brewers, Toronto accepted 14th Round 2019 selection Paxton Schultz in exchange for outfielder Derek Fisher. The Schultz portion was announced over the weekend, after Fisher went to Milwaukee in February.

When a minor piece, from Duffy to a middle-range rental reliever, is sent away, a recent second- or third-day draft choice is a reasonable guess. Schultz, from Utah Valley University, signed a $125,000 signing bonus. Adding a longer-term piece for someone like Duffy would seem a bit of a win/win. Unless he was going to be signed to a mild extension,

Yeah, the September games might be a bit anonymous if the Cubs make a handful of trades. Some of the players might not entirely be MLB quality. However, until players are given a chance, it’s problematic to know how an entire unknown will do. Some 16th or 18th Round selections are worth keeping. And, if they aren’t going to be kept long-term, trading them for some level of longer-term value beats losing them for nothing.

Poll

Matt Duffy’s future with the Cubs...

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    The Cubs should sign him to an extension
    (168 votes)
  • 19%
    The Cubs should use his good performance to get a future piece in trade
    (121 votes)
  • 53%
    It’s too early to tell
    (335 votes)
  • 1%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (8 votes)
632 votes total Vote Now