Zach Duke recently fell victim to every pitchers injury nightmare–Tommy John– which is a major problem for both himself and the Cardinals.
At the deadline, the Cardinals made a move for Zach Duke to bolster their bullpen. The price was Charlie Tilson; a 23 year old outfiled prospect hitting .282/.345/.407 in AAA Memphis. So, the Cardinals did not send off some slouch for Duke but a very valuable prospect. However, Tilson tore his hamstring in his first game with the White Sox and missed the rest of the season. On the other end, Duke pitched to a 2.35 ERA in 23.1 IP with the Cardinals. Although it seemed as if the Cardinals were on the better end of the deal, it turned out not to be so clear once news of Duke’s injury broke. Now, Duke will be out for all of the 2017 season which is the year his contract expires. The Cardinals will be responsible for the $5.5mil he is owed next year and now have to look once more to strengthen the bullpen.
Zach Duke’s injury comes at one of the worst possible times in a pitcher’s career.
One cannot say that there exists a perfect time to fall victim to Tommy John surgery. However, it is plain to see that Zach Duke fell prey at one of the worst times a pitcher could undergo the knife. As of today, Duke is 33 years old and was experiencing a sort of career renaissance. This season he totaled 61.0IP with an opponents avg, of .213, an ERA of 2.36, and a 2.97 FIP. If he were to continue that sort of dominance next year, he would go into free agency with a good amount of bargaining power. Considering that next year is a contract year, Duke’s next contract might depend on if he would be able t replicate his performance in 2017. However, Duke will not replicate it as a result f his surgery. If he is able to land a contract, he will be a few weeks away from being 35 years old before he pitches again. To sign a 35 year old pitcher would be a risk for any team, especially a pitcher coming off of surgery. Therefore, Duke’s surgery may cost him his career or at least put him in a difficult spot in free agency.
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His surgery is also a burden for the Cardinals bullpen to find other options.
John Mozeliak brought Duke in at the deadline to solidify the bullpen in 2017 as well as the remainder of this season. With Duke out of the picture, what are some of the other options available to the Cardinals? Since free agency is only a few weeks away, most teams would test the market before turning to other options. On the contrary, the Cardinals will most likely look internally to replace Duke instead of spending more money in the market. An incentive to look internally comes from a heap of pitchers returning from injuries. Players include: Lance Lynn; Seth Maness; Marco Gonzales; Tyler Lyons and others. Although Lynn and Gonzales are both technically starters, solidifying the starting rotation could take stress off of the bullpen which would help with the Duke situation. It is impossible to tell right now how well they will perform in their returning seasons. However, their returns will provide Mozeliak with options to replace Zach Duke.
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