Today, there’s another interesting one to add into the repository of data points, as the Kansas City Royals have inked 28-year-old lefty Danny Duffy to a five-year deals worth a reported $65 million. What’s especially notable about Duffy’s deal is that it comes just one year away from free agency – he was due to be a part of the impressive post-2017 free agent pitching crop. A crop in which the Cubs will have significant interest. In that respect … dang.
In another respect … *shrugging-I-don’t-know-sound.* Duffy was solid in 2016, posting a 3.51/3.83/3.79 ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line, but he managed just 179.2 innings over 26 starts and 16 relief appearances. And that was a career high in big league innings by a country mile.
Before last year, Duffy had been slow to establish himself in the big league rotation, and there’s still a bit of upside betting going on in guaranteeing him nearly $60 million more than he was due to earn in this last pass through arbitration.
Still, if the Royals are right that Duffy can finally firmly establish himself as a nice middle-of-the-rotation starter, then they get four of his free agent years for a relative bargain price. And if they’re wrong, then Duffy locks down life-changing money. It’s a good deal for both sides, even if it’s pretty rare that you see this length of an extension this close to free agency.
Which brings me to the one Cubs comparison that folks may want to bring up – Jake Arrieta, since he, too, is just a year away from free agency. The difference, however, should be pretty obvious, as Arrieta has established himself as a clearly durable, front-of-the-rotation type, of the kind that typically scores huge in free agency. Yes, Duffy is three years younger, but Arrieta has already made the leap during those three years that the Royals hope Duffy can make.
Furthermore, although Duffy could have perhaps secured himself a $90+ million contract in free agency if he’d had a Duffy-at-his-best year in 2017, Arrieta could get himself a $200+ million contract in free agency if he posts an Arrieta-at-his-best year in 2017. There’s much more of a reason for Arrieta (who has already guaranteed himself more than $10 million more than Duffy in career earnings through 2017) to take the chance and bet on himself.
As we’ve discussed many times, while I think the Cubs will – and should – take a crack at signing Arrieta to an extension, I have a hard time seeing Arrieta accept the kind of deal that will make sense for the Cubs.
Arrieta’s already signed for 2017 at $15.6375 million – do the Cubs sign a deal that tacks four years of control at $20 million per season? Yeah, I think they’d gladly sign that deal. Would Arrieta sign a deal that tacks on six years of control at $25 million per season? Yeah, I think he’d probably sign that deal. But would each side to the other’s? I doubt it. And that’s a huge chasm in the middle in which to try to find common ground with free agency so close.