SAN FRANCISCO — Hours before the 2014 trade deadline, Matt Duffy was pulled off a 7 a.m. Double-A bus from Richmond to Altoona. He didn’t get the call to the big leagues until 4:30 that afternoon, and throughout the day, Duffy had one thought running through his head.
“I thought I was getting traded that whole time,” he once said as he told the story of that hectic day.
Instead he became a surprise contributor down the stretch, and the next spring he forced his way onto the Opening Day roster. By late May, he was the everyday starter at third base. By the end of the season, he was a Rookie of the Year runner-up, Gold Glove finalist, and Willie Mac Award winner.
Duffy, a Southern California native, had settled in as a Giant, but the Rays never forgot about him. They once asked for him as part of a deal for Ben Zobrist, and in recent days they made him the centerpiece of a deal that sent starting pitcher Matt Moore to San Francisco.
The Giants tried to keep Duffy in the loop as the deadline approached, but still, he was a bit stunned by the deal. Duffy, via text, told CSN Bay Area that he understands the nature of the business.
“(I’m) extremely honored to be a part of such a great, first class organization that is the Giants,” Duffy said. “Mixed emotions (and) I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t heartbroken about leaving the group of guys and fans in SF. But I’m also excited about the opportunity to help push the Rays over the top and be a contender in the AL East.”
The Rays have already announced that Duffy will move back to his original position, shortstop. He was set to come full circle a different way this week, as the Giants had already booked him a trip back to Double-A so he could rehab an Achilles injury on the East Coast and be available on the upcoming road trip. The Richmond Flying Squirrels play in Altoona this week.
Instead, Duffy’s story will add a different twist. The former 18th-round pick will now join fellow Long Beach State product Evan Longoria on the left side of the Rays’ infield. Duffy said he'll "make the most of" the new opportunity.
The Giants knew what they had in Duffy all along, holding him out of deals even before his breakthrough in the majors. General manager Bobby Evans said it was “incredibly difficult” to finally make the move.