The San Diego Padres need improvement in team OBP and they also need a shortstop for the 2019 season. Would Matt Duffy be an option for the team as the Friars look for a stopgap at the position until the youth in the franchise is ready to compete at the major league level?
Currently, the Padres have no experienced, established starter at shortstop for next season.
With Freddy Galvis officially in free agency, the Padres’ depth at the premium position on the infield is Greg Garcia and Javy Guerra; a recent waiver claim and a glove-only player. Neither inspires much confidence to hold the fort until Fernando Tatis Jr. is ready.
Guerra couldn’t even handle minor league pitching, so expecting him to turn a corner at the major league level is ludicrous. And Greg Garcia was put on waivers for a reason, posting OPS numbers under .700 for the past two years. He also hasn’t played more than 25 games at shortstop in a season, so he’s not very experienced there.
The Padres don’t need a long-term solution this offseason, but the team needs to start moving forward and getting better as a team.
May I present to you…Matt Duffy.
Currently a member of the Tampa Bay Rays organization, Duffy is heading into his second arbitration season after making $930,000 last season. MLB Trade Rumors currently projects him to make $2.6 million for the 2019 season, which is a pretty big raise for a Rays team that is notoriously budget-conscious.
Just last season, they had to let Corey Dickerson go after a 27-homer season because he was projected for a big raise in arbitration. So getting him wouldn’t require a big haul; if anything it might just be a salary dump for the Rays. Some low-level lottery player might work, and the Rays are known to like young players. None of this is a knock on Duffy’s ability though, as last season he put up 2.4 WAR while triple-slashing .294/.361/.366 with four home runs. The Padres could really use that jolt of on-base ability, finishing dead last in the majors with a .297 mark.
Duffy got a hit at nearly the same rate as the Padres got on base, which is both a sign that Duffy is a great hitter and that the Padres really need someone like Duffy. Duffy’s biggest flaw as a player is his lack of power, evidenced by his career .385 slugging percentage and 21 career home runs. But for a stopgap starter at a position not known for power hitters, Duffy’s lack of power can easily be overlooked when he gets on base at the rate he did in 2018.
A reason for caution is that Duffy hasn’t played shortstop much since breaking into the major leagues. In the minor leagues, he played both shortstop and third base, but was brought up with the Giants playing third base because Brandon Crawford was entrenched at shortstop. He has also had arm troubles in the past, but if his arm can handle third, it can handle short too.
He would also be a good backup plan if Wil Myers shows that he’s not capable of playing third base and is moved back to the outfield. Christian Villanueva has been linked to a move to the Nippon League in Japan, and so if he does move, the Padres will have the aforementioned Greg Garcia to start at third. Duffy would be a much better alternative with both the bat and the glove. He also still has two years of team control left before free agency, so he could build trade value this season and be worth more next season once Tatis Jr. is ready and Duffy is no longer starting.