PHILADELPHIA — Matt Duffy’s cell phone buzzed all day Monday with text messages from teammates and friends saying goodbye and wishing him well. Brandon Belt was one of them, and he tried to point out a silver lining for the new Tampa Bay Ray.
“I wished him the best of luck going over there, and told him there’s no state tax there, so that’s good,” Belt said, smiling.
Duffy’s former teammates and coaches all felt the same way a day after a blockbuster trade, with a couple saying they hope Duffy turns into a perennial American League All-Star and one joking that Duffy should do all he can for the Rays and then return to the Giants as a free agent.
Duffy took the trade in stride, saying in a text message Monday that he is “excited” about the new opportunity but also “heartbroken about leaving the group of guys and fans in SF.”
“It just kind of sucks knowing you’re not going to be playing with him anymore,” shortstop Brandon Crawford said. “It was fun playing with him. He’s a grinder, he made the most of every day and played as hard as he could. I appreciated that. And in the clubhouse, he was a friend. After the season he had last year, he opened a lot of eyes. I thought he’d be a guy I would play with for most of my career and most of my contract. You never expect this stuff to happen, but it is a business.”
When Crawford and Belt signed contract extensions over the past year, it appeared the Giants could have a homegrown infield for the rest of this decade. Duffy and Joe Panik were years away from free agency, and that’s part of what made them such valuable pieces before the deadline. Panik was asked about often, and Duffy brought a young, cost-controlled left-hander in return. Matt Moore joined the Giants in Philadelphia on Tuesday and will start Thursday.
The Giants are thrilled to have Moore, and he has a reputation as a strong teammate. He’s expected to become a fixture in San Francisco, and the clubhouse welcomed him with open arms Tuesday.
Players realize this is a business, and guys weren’t completely shocked when Duffy was shipped out right at the deadline. It will take some time, though, to get used to the new reality. Christian Arroyo might arrive soon, but the Giants have broken up a group that came together in two waves — first Crawford and Belt and then Panik and Duffy — and turned into one of the best infields in baseball.
“It’s tough because you’ve got a good friend there and you never want to see them go,” Panik said. “You’re building relationships. Forget about him being a really good player — he was a really good clubhouse guy. He’ll definitely be missed, but at the same time you focus on what you’re getting with Matt Moore.”
Moore listed Panik as one of the tough hitters he’s glad he won’t have to face anymore. In a twist, the second-to-last game for the homegrown infield actually came against Moore and the Rays. The Giants won’t face Tampa Bay again until 2019, but they’ll be keeping an eye on Duffy, who arrived at Tropicana Field on Wednesday.
“It’s sad, you know,” said Belt, noting that the clubhouse has been lucky to not have many big leaguers traded away in recent years. “You play with a guy a couple of years and come up through the system, and you’re on the same page. But it’s a new beginning for him, and we all wish him the best of luck.”