Christian Arroyo, Not Matt Duffy, Returns to Oracle Park to Face Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- Matt Duffy is one of the more popular players to come through Oracle Park in recent years, but he won't be there to get a standing ovation on Friday afternoon when the Giants host the Rays in their home opener (weather permitting, of course). 

Duffy missed most of the spring with a hamstring injury and had a back issue pop up that will keep him out until May. The third baseman told the Tampa Bay Times that he tweaked his back before spring training while working out. 

"I thought (the two injuries) were unrelated things, and in a way they are unrelated," he said. "But they are not helping each other. It's part of the game. It's frustrating."

That's a word that can describe much of Duffy's career since the Giants sent him away at the deadline in 2016. He was shut down in September of that year and missed all of 2017 with an Achilles injury. The latest Injured List stint will keep him from returning to a place where he won a World Series title, became a fan favorite, and developed into one of the better young infielders in the National League. 

Of course, that deal might have been more frustrating for the Giants. There probably is no such thing as the Curse of Matt Duffy, but ...

The Giants were 61-44 and in first place when they dealt Duffy and prospects to the Rays in a deal that brought Matt Moore back. The thought was that Moore could help anchor a title run, but the deal was a stunner nonetheless, and it came as a shock even in the clubhouse, where players had grown so accustomed to keeping the gang together and Duffy served as a bridge between the core and younger players trying to break in. 

The Giants went 26-31 the rest of the way, just sneaking into the postseason, where they lost to the Cubs in heartbreaking fashion. 

Add up the two-plus down years since and the organization is 165-223 since the Duffy deal. 

Duffy has played just 153 games for the Rays, but he did have a two-WAR season in 2018, posting a .294/.361/.366 line. Perhaps Duffy would have stayed healthy on the natural grass at Oracle Park, but it's doubtful the Giants have many regrets. The real issues with that trade might be everything else it led to. 

The Giants also included Lucius Fox after giving him $6 million to sign out of the Bahamas. Fox, 21, is now a top 100 prospect according to some evaluators. The other player in that deal, pitcher Michael Santos, flamed out. 

There were other parts of this deal, too. The Giants ended up swapping Moore for Sam Wolff, a right-handed reliever in their system. To fill the Duffy spot long-term, they made another trade for the Rays, acquiring Evan Longoria for a package headlined by Christian Arroyo. 

It is Arroyo, not Duffy, who likely will be at third base at some point in this homecoming. The former first-round pick of the Giants had a rough 2018 and was sent to minor league camp early this spring, but injuries -- including Duffy's -- led to a promotion last week.  

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