ZiPS’ projected value: Two years, $30 million (A.A.V.: $15M)
Lucas Duda certainly doesn’t carry the traits the Red Sox generally value. His .217 batting average and a 27.5 K% that borders on horrific would normally have convinced them to move on quickly, but perhaps it’s time to reevaluate in today’s changing landscape. Strikeouts and plummeting batting averages aren’t as taboo as they once were, so long as they are offset by a few extra home runs a healthy amount of walks.
Those are two abilities that Duda has a knack for. The 31-year old swatted 30 homers for the second time in the last three years and has averaged 29 since 2014. He also posted a 12.2 BB% that ranked 30th in the majors (minimum 450 plate appearances).
The Red Sox are in need of a first baseman with Mitch Moreland hitting free agency and Hanley Ramirez potentially being left in the designated hitter role he prefers. While Duda’s abysmal batting average will keep his price tag in check, his .242 career average is about the same as what Boston got out of Moreland this year, only Duda comes with a higher power ceiling. He doesn’t have the elite glove that Moreland provides but Duda is at least serviceable at first base and capable of playing the outfield.
Duda carries wide platoon splits with a career .218 average against left-handed pitching. While that limits his value, Boston could get the most out of him by using Ramirez at first base against lefties to avoid exposing Duda. Reducing his playing time could prevent Duda from reaching that 30-homer mark, but it would improve his overall production on a per game basis and give the Red Sox some extra pop against right-handers.
Boston got tremendous value out of a 1-year, $5.5 million deal with Moreland in 2017, but the veteran first baseman will likely be seeking a longer, more lucrative deal. Signing Duda would be similar to the Moreland deal in that it’s short-term and relatively inexpensive compared to other options. The $15 million AAV projected by ZiPS may even be a bit high given the alternative options Duda will compete with for a contract in free agency. A two-year, $20 million deal might do it for Duda.