Just hours after swinging a deal to acquire catcher Rene Rivera from the Angels, the Atlanta Braves acquired first baseman Lucas Duda from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for cash. Furthermore, the Royals will assume half of Duda’s remaining salary. With just about one month remaining in the season, he has a little but under $600k left on his deal, which was worth $3.5m when it was signed late last offseason.
Duda has struggled this season, slashing .242/.311/.415 with 13 home runs over 341 plate appearances. Per usual, Duda was considerably better against right handed pitchers, slashing a solid .267/.335/.479 with 11 of his 13 home runs. Meanwhile, southpaws held him to a paltry .180/.255/.258 line over 102 plate appearances. Out of the gate, he will join the Braves to serve as a power bench bat against righties down the stretch run. A major plus for the Braves is that Duda had been in the National League East for his entire career up until last July, as he was the Mets’ primary first baseman.
For the Royals, the move gives them a small amount of salary relief and allows them to get a closer look at 25-year-old Ryan O’Hearn, who has been exceptional over a limited sample size of 69 plate appearances. He has slashed .242/.319/.581 with six home runs. While I question whether he will ever be able to hit for consistent average, the power is undoubted, as he broke the 20 home run mark from 2015 to 2017, with just three more to go to extend the streak. While he has shown the ability to take a walk, his plate discipline isn’t anything special compared to the strikeouts. I’m not sure that O’Hearn is a starter on a competitive team based on his contact deficiencies, but the left-handed first baseman could be a very serviceable placeholder for the Royals until top prospect Samir Duenez is ready to go. I would expect that to be early to mid 2020.
While many criticized the Braves relative lack of action in July, their growing lead over the Phillies in the NL-East has silenced many of the critics. These moves will do nothing but strengthen their depth down the stretch run at little to no risk.