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Matt Duffy still has a role on the Rays

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We love the youth movement but let’s not overlook what Duffy contributes

MLB: Houston Astros at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays have a glut of young middle infielders coming up through the system, some already on the big league squad. That has led many to ask: Should the Rays trade Matt Duffy?

Short answer: No.

Duffy has already accounted for 1.5 WAR, and he’s given the Rays above-average offense while proving solid defense at the hot corner. The .317/.364/.434 slash line that Duffy has put together is in line with the 4+ WAR season he gave the Giants in 2015. While he struggled in 2016, but his resurgence in 2018 has been reassuring. Those 2016 struggles, it seems, might have been attributable to his lingering foot injury, and not a sign that the league had figured him out.

Good problems to have

A strong cohort of talented infielders making their way through the Rays system has created a glut at the major league level; Christian Arroyo’s eventual return from the disabled list will soon add to the Rays roster dilemmas. Daniel Robertson and Joey Wendle have taken reps in left field, thus increasing their versatility, but they’re still natural infielders.

With all this talent, isn’t Matt Duffy redundant?

Duffy, in fact, has a lot to offer the Rays, and not just in 2018. He still has two years of team control remaining after 2018, and he provides stability to a lineup that could continue to use his bat-to-ball skills.

Duffy has maintained a healthy Contact%, and he’s well above the league average at 83.6%. While that doesn’t necessarily correlate directly to success, it’s imperative that the Rays have contact oriented hitters at their disposal as they continue to stray away from the boom or bust offense that ultimately contributed to their demise in 2017.

Of course, Duffy’s role moving forward will depend on how other pieces fall into place. Do the Rays see Christian Arroyo as their third baseman of the future? Are the Rays confident in Daniel Robertson venturing in left field? Is Joey Wendle just a stopgap? How real is Brandon Lowe? These are all pressing questions that could most definitely change the landscape in the infield. There’s no denying the fact that these are good problems to have, but you have to think that the Rays should be working towards an answer sooner rather than later.

Should the Rays feel that Matt Duffy could command a return that makes sense, I’m all for it. However, should this team feel like they could compete in 2019 (which seems to be the plan), then wouldn’t keeping Duffy around validate that? Duffy has given the Rays more than they imagined, and this comes on the heels (no pun intended) of a Longoria trade that sent the fan base on a frenzy. If the franchise wants stability at a key position on the offensive side of things as they embark on their next wave of success, this a good place to start.

Duffy can still play shortstop, he can give you time over at second base and as we all know, he can look good down at third base (yes, Fangraphs has him at -2 DRS at third base this year but the eye test suggests he has found his rythm in the field after a shaky first month). He’s considered a thoughtful observer of the game; that sort of “make-up” characteristic hardly guarantees effective play but instills some confidence that he can make adjustments that allow him to take full advantage of his skills. For a guy who’s halfway to a 3 WAR year, and who should command a relatively reasonable (yet, not outrageous) raise heading into 2018 it makes all the sense in the world should the Rays decide that the best move with Duffy would be no move at all.