SAN FRANCISCO -- In the spring of 2017, a former Giants prospect sat in the visiting dugout at Scottsdale Stadium and marveled at how the big league team had fallen apart a year earlier.
"Everything changed when we traded Duffy," he said.
Matt Duffy was just as popular in the clubhouse as he was with the fan base, and he was a bridge from the veterans who had won in 2014 to the newer Giants trying to repeat two years later. There's no doubt that trading Duffy to Tampa Bay at the deadline was a big blow for the clubhouse, but over time -- and three straight losing seasons -- it has became clear that the issues were much deeper.
The Duffy trade, one of the most scrutinized in recent Giants history, came full circle Wednesday when the Rays DFA'd Duffy as part of an effort to clear 40-man roster spots for prospects. Like Matt Moore, Duffy is no longer with the team that dealt for him, although a good prospect the Giants included is still with the Rays.
The deal was Moore, a talented left-handed starter, for Duffy, Lucius Fox and Michael Santos. Fox, a 22-year-old shortstop, was actually added to Tampa Bay's 40-man on Wednesday to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, and perhaps that'll ultimately be the part of this deal that really burns the Giants. But while he ends up on prospect lists occasionally, Fox has yet to break out and he had a .657 OPS across Double-A and Triple-A last season. Santos is now with the Angels organization and has made just six appearances above A-ball.
The principles were Duffy and Moore, with the Giants, the best team in the Majors throughout that first half of 2016, dealing from their infield depth to get a lefty they felt would put them over the top in the postseason. In retrospect, Moore's time with the Giants is absolutely fascinating. He had a 5.12 ERA in 44 appearances and was traded to the Rangers after his only full season in San Francisco.
But ... Moore's stint in San Francisco was so close to being remembered as somewhat legendary.
In his fifth start with the Giants, Moore came one out away from no-hitting the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, which would have given him #ForeverGiant status on the spot. His lone postseason start for the Giants was memorable, but not because he gave up two runs and struck out 10 Cubs over eight innings in Game 4 of the NLDS. Imagine how Moore would have been remembered had the bullpen held the three-run lead he handed over?
Moore was close to fulfilling all the dreams the Giants had for him when they swung the blockbuster. Across the country, Duffy never even got a chance.
An Achilles injury limited Duffy to 21 games the rest of 2016 and kept him out all of 2017. Duffy looked more like his old self in 2018, posting a .361 OBP in 132 games, but this past season was again ruined by injuries. Duffy played just 46 games for a team that surprisingly reached the postseason.
In three and a half years in Tampa, Duffy had just 726 at-bats, but he's still just 28. Perhaps getting back on natural grass full-time will help keep him healthy. Maybe there's a reunion in his future (Duffy isn't really a fit for the current Giants roster but bringing him back sure wouldn't hurt an organization facing a PR nightmare right now).
Regardless of where he ends up, Duffy won't be in Tampa Bay four seasons after a trade that shook up his previous organization and didn't work out as either side had hoped.