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Checking in on the Zach Duke Acquisition

During this year’s trade deadline, the Cardinals front office was not terribly aggressive. With that being said, however, they did make a deal to acquire left-handed reliever Zach Duke. About a month later, it is time to review his contributions to this point, while predicting his value going forward. 

The Cardinals front office is known to be smart. They have had remarkable foresight over the years, acquiring and selling players in a wise fashion. For this very reason, it was disappointing to many fans for the Cardinals to remain relatively inactive at the deadline. While it may have been a rather boring period, it was the right thing to do. The Cardinals filled a need, while keeping their pool of prospects nearly full.

Specifically, the Cardinals traded AAA prospect Charlie Tilson to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Zach Duke, a left-handed relief pitcher. With this move, the Cardinals brought in a high level reliever, filling a an obvious hole in their roster. With the deal, it is worth noting that the Cardinals didn’t give up much in this deal, as Charlie Tilson projects to be a 4th outfielder at the big league level. Furthermore, the organization currently contains four superior young outfield players (Harrison Bader, Tommy Pham, Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk). In other words, the Cardinals got a good deal here.

So far, the move has worked out. Duke’s stellar performance in Chicago has carried over to St. Louis through his first appearances. Specifically, he has pitched 10 full innings, boasting a .90 ERA. Through today, Duke also has  12 strikeouts, allowing only 7 hits to 41 batters faced. Put simply, he has done his job, filling a hole that the Cardinals desperately missed in the first half of the season.

In our analysis of Zach Duke, it is perhaps more important to recognize his potential value going forward into the most important parts of the season. When single games begin to hold more and more value as the Wild Card race nears its send, Duke’s ability to get outs at crucial points will be vital for a playoff push. Especially against elite hitters in late-game situations, Duke’s impact will begin to be magnified exponentially.

With regards to specific match-ups, it is possible that Duke could have an immense impact against both the Giants, Dodgers, or Marlins should they meet in a one-game clash. I recognize that such a hypothetical is a tad presumptuous, but such prime-time games will help to validate the Cardinals move at the deadline. Interestingly, Duke has been more effective versus right-handers thus far in 2016, yielding a .191 average (.250 average vs. left-handers). In this way, Duke will be asked to retire batters from both sides of the plate, adding to his late-season work load.

Duke has been good so far in his tenure with the Cards. In reality, though, the best is yet to come.