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Lucas Duda Isn’t Right for Rays

Wayne Masut | Senior Staff Photographery

The Tampa Bay Rays may have done the New York Mets a favor by trading for Lucas Duda.

For the second time today the Tampa Bay Rays made a trade.

After acquiring bullpen help in the form of Dan Jennings earlier in the day, Rays GM and Senior VP of Baseball Operations Erik Neander added a power bat by trading for New York Mets 1B Lucas Duda.

Duda is having a resurgence this season. His .246 batting average is the highest it has been since 2014, when he actually received vote-points towards the NL MVP (finished 22nd). His .879 OPS is a career-high, as is his 68% XBH Percentage.

Certainly, these are things that the Rays front office notices before deciding to pull-the-trigger on a deal. And, as many in the Tampa Bay area will confess, and Jon Heyman points out, the Rays have in fact “played well enough to go for it, so they are doing the right thing.”

Right Thing or Right Player?

The Rays are doing the right thing by being buyers at the deadline, yes.

Taking things a step further, a case could be made that this is the first time in franchise history that the club is “buying” as we near the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Unless, of course, you want to count that 2010 trade to acquire Chad Qualls (8.60 ERA and 2.11 WHIP in the first-half of the season) from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Historically, the Rays haven’t even acquired assets when they were in position to make a playoff push. In years prior, the front office would rely on the guys they had and hope for the best.

Look back at the seasons that they either reached the post-season, or were in a favorable position to do so…

2013: Zero trades during the months of June or July.

2012: Traded minor-leaguer Tyler Bortnick to Arizona for Ryan Roberts on July 24.

2011: Zero trades during the months of June or July.

2010: See Above (Qualls was the only move made)

2009: Traded Winston Abreu for Jon Meloan.

2008: No trades during the months of June or July.

It almost doesn’t seem possible. Over a six year period in which the Rays made the playoffs four times – that is the collection of pre-deadline deals?!

Paying for Past Performance

While Duda is having a great 2017 season, it is quite possible that the Rays just acquired a player who is going to regress over the final two months.

I understand that Duda has better splits during the second-half of the season. I’m just not sold that Duda is going to be able to keep up his current pace.

Lucas Duda Career Numbers
1st Half 462 1778 1535 190 372 70 215 .242 .340 .443 .783
2nd Half 298 1117 959 135 242 55 163 .252 .349 .481 .830’s Anthony DiComo mentions the success that Duda had over his eight years in Flushing, NY, including his recent contributions. There are probably several analysts that will speak of this trade and laud the Rays for their acquisition. My thoughts are that the need-based move would have been to acquire an on-base guy from the right-side.

When It Counts

The Rays plan to use Duda primarily as a DH.

In 11 games as a DH, Duda has 40 plate appearances, one home run, and a .200 batting average. As a pinch-hitter, which is where he could be used quite often, he’s tallied 69 plate appearances, two home runs, and a .207 average.

Where Duda has excelled is in Low Leverage situations. Of his 125 career home runs, 71 of them are low leverage. In fact, in 654 high-leverage plate appearances Duda has struck out 159 times.

Thats 24% of the time he steps in the box – that’s not what the Rays need.

More of the Same

The Rays already have a roster full of all-or-nothing type players. They are currently third (146) in the American League in home runs and first (975) in the league in strikeouts. Joining the Rays atop the AL in home runs are the Houston Astros (165), Texas Rangers (154), New York Yankees (145), and Baltimore Orioles (143).

Only two of those squads (HOU, NYY) would make the playoffs if they started today. Furthermore, it’s not home run hitters that organizations should be chasing, it’s guys that don’t strikeout.

The three teams with the fewest number of strikeouts, Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, and Boston Red Sox, are all positioned atop their division.

Again, under the definition of buyer or seller, the Rays are positioning themselves in the proper category. And given the financial constraints that they operate within, they are targeting players as expected. It appears, however, as if the acquisition of Duda was done out of desperation – not necessity.

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