The known known, the Tampa Bay Rays traded for first baseman Lucas Thursday afternoon, sending RHP prospect Drew Smith to New York in return. Duda, who is expected to slot in at DH, will be activated prior to Friday night’s contest against the Yankees. How might Duda impact the postseason dreaming ball-club? Let’s take a look.
First and foremost, Duda had been a beloved member of the Mets organization since being drafted by the team almost a decade ago. In other words, he’s a player that should mesh well within the Rays clubhouse. One only needs to take a look at the popular Instagram account @wefollowlucasduda (embedded above; maintained by Curtis Granderson), which documented Duda’s every day comings and goings in the clubhouse.
Beyond an amiable personality though, Duda represents a power bat that should take the place of Colby Rasmus, who took a personal leave of absence on July 13.
The 31 year-old first baseman has posted some beefy offensive numbers this season, slashing .246 BA/.347 OBP/.532 SLG/.869 OPS in 291 plate appearances, with 17 home runs — coming close to his offensive output during his excellent 2014 and 2015 campaigns. Duda has been especially good against right-handed pitching, against which he has slashed .253 BA/.367 OBP/.546 SLG/.913 OPS with 29 extra base hits (15 doubles, 14 homers), 27 RBI, and 24 runs in 194 at-bats. While he is prone to striking out (51 strikeouts vs RHP), his 33 walks against right-handers indicates that he has a well defined strike zone.
He has maintained a steady .297 True Average (TAv*) this season, and that paired with a career best slugging percentage equal the type of player the Rays will gladly welcome with arms wide open. In taking plate appearances from from Shane Peterson — owner of a career 84 wRC+ and designated for assignment on Thursday — and giving them to Duda, the team has added a lot of thump to the lineup.
In short, Duda is someone who can slot in at DH, allowing Corey Dickerson to spend more time in the outfield, someone who can provide insurance in case Logan Morrison is injured or needs an off-day, and someone who can give the team a serious offensive boost early on — when the Rays score the bulk of their runs.
*True Average (TAv) is a measure of total offensive value scaled to batting average. Adjustments are made for park and league quality, as such the league-average mark is constant at .260. (Source: Baseball Prospectus)
— With the acquisition of Lucas Duda, the Rays appear to be open to listening to offers on infielders Brad Miller and Tim Beckham. Steve Adams and Jeff Todd (MLB Trade Rumors) wrote about the Rays willingness to deal one of the two earlier, saying:
As they continue to work on upgrading their roster, the Rays are willing to take trade offers for infielders Tim Beckham and Brad Miller, per ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter links). With the recent additions of Adeiny Hechavarria and now Lucas Duda, the Rays are perhaps a bit overstocked in infielders. Still, Tampa Bay is more interested in listening to potential offers than in shopping the pair around, Crasnick notes.