After Eric Hosmer’s departure, the Kansas City Royals have signed Lucas Duda to take over at first base.
The band that led the Kansas City Royals to back-to-back World Series in 2014 and 2015, with Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer gone and Mike Moustakas headed that way. The Royals simply could not compete with San Diego Padres’ eight-year, $144 million overpay for Hosmer, but they’ve now found a replacement at first base.
According to Robert Murray of FanRag Sports, the Royals have signed Lucas Duda to a one-year deal. Jon Heyman of FanRag reported it’s worth $3.5 million, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post adding the possibility of incentives pushing Duda’s compensation to $5 million.
Duda split last season between the New York Mets and Tampa Bay Rays, with a .217/.322/.496 slash-line (.818 OPS), a career-high 30 home runs and 64 RBI. A back injury wrecked his 2016 campaign, but Duda had 57 home runs and drove in 165 over the 2014 and 2015 seasons with the Mets and is a viable power hitter.
Duda is probably a downgrade defensively at first base compared to Hosmer, though just how much is up for debate based on advanced metrics. Hosmer’s 2017 batted ball profile is ripe for regression, and over 85 percent of Duda’s contact last year was classified as “medium” or “hard” with substantially more fly balls than Hosmer.
If he reaches all the incentives in his deal with the Royals, Duda will make one-fourth what Hosmer will this season with the Padres. Add in San Diego’s minimum of four more years committed to Hosmer (with an opt-out after 2022), at a total of $80 million over that span, and the Royals have maintained the kind of flexibility that is essential for a smaller market team.
Teams like the Royals also can’t afford to pay up for flimsy surface numbers like Hosmer had in 2017, and a player’s looming decline. On the other hand if Duda performs well, he’ll be easy for general manager Dayton Moore to extract value from at the trade deadline.