As Matt Duffy rolled his luggage out of the AT&T Park clubhouse on Friday night, set to begin his rehab assignment in Sacramento, he said he hoped to be back in a week.
Three days later, Duffy found out he wouldn’t be coming back at all.
“That’s just a stark reality of the game and the business we’re in,” general manager Bobby Evans said on Monday afternoon after sending Duffy to the Tampa Bay Rays as the centerpiece in the deal for Matt Moore. “I still think this is more of a game than a business, but today it feels a lot more like a business.”
Evans had been reluctant to put the third baseman in the package, which also included minor league infielder Lucius Fox and right-hander Michael Santos.
“It was incredibly difficult,” Evans explained. “Our focus had been on a prospect-driven deal, but it was apparent that there was no way to do a prospect-driven deal with them. It cost us an incredibly great Giant.”
Ultimately, the opportunity to acquire Moore and the broader organizational landscape conspired to make Duffy expendable.
Moore is the kind of player who is nearly impossible to acquire. The 27-year-old is a left-handed starter who has top-of-the-rotation rotation potential and remains under club control through the 2019 season.
He sported a 2.66 ERA in his last seven outings and was an American League All-Star in 2013.
Evans and the rest of the brass were also likely wondering where exactly Duffy fit into the club’s future plans.
After a breakout rookie season, Duffy has regressed in every major offensive category from batting average to on-base percentage to slugging percentage in the opening months of 2016. Out with a strained left achilles, Duffy hadn’t suited up for the Giants since June 19.
In his absence, other options have emerged — from the newly-acquired super-utility man Eduardo Nunez to journeyman Conor Gillaspie. Then there’s top prospect Christian Arroyo, who’s currently playing in Double-A.
“We feel very good about his ability to handle the position,” Evans said of the 25th pick in 2013 Arroyo.
Evans added: “I don’t think he’s that far away.”
While there’s much to like about the trade as a baseball transaction, the move also presents unavoidable challenges for the Giants. Since joining the club in May of 2014, Duffy had been a fan favorite and one of the most popular players in the clubhouse.
With Duffy exiting and Moore arriving, another popular Giant — either Matt Cain or Jake Peavy — will be losing his rotation spot.
Evans wanted to confer with manager Bruce Bochy before announcing which vet was due for a demotion.
“I think that ultimately we’ve got a clubhouse full of guys that want to win and I think each guy’s going to play a significant role and contribute,” Evans said. “So, in terms of how that role gets redefined or changed, it’s still to be determined.”
Hours before Evans brought Moore into the fold, he also added left-handed reliever Will Smith. The cost was high as the Giants had to part with catcher Andrew Susac and right-hander Phil Bickford — the club’s top pick last June.
Like Moore, Smith not only makes the Giants better now but also in the future.
Smith, who had 22 strikeouts in 22 innings, helps fill a glaring need for a shutdown lefty in the pen. He’s also under control through the end of 2019.
Evans likened the new Giant to one of the core members of the past three championship teams.
“We’ve had four tremendous guys who’ve really just [been] big horses for us in [Sergio] Romo, [Santiago] Casilla, [Jeremy] Affeldt and [Javier] Lopez,” Evans said. “And we are without a key member of that foursome in Affeldt. So, we felt like [if] there was the opportunity to find a significant replacement, we should do it. And that’s how Will became part of our process.”