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Mozeliak Hits Home Run with Duke Acquisition

Zach Duke Cardinals

With only hours left before the end of the non-waiver trade period, John Mozeliak found an effective left-handed reliever in Zach Duke, who should have a crucial role as the Cardinals push for October baseball.

Yesterday morning, we woke up to the news that John Mozeliak has found the Cardinals a new reliever right before the end of the non-waiver trading period. The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to terms to trade outfielder Charlie Tilson to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for left-handed reliever Zach Duke.

This year, Duke leads the American league with 53 relief appearances. He is 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in 37.2 innings. More impressively, he has 42 strikeouts and he has only given up 2 home runs all year.

Mozeliak has done it again: he made a move right before the trade deadline to acquire a reliever who will, hopefully, help push the Cardinals into postseason play. In 2011, Mozeliak traded for Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel at the deadline and I’m sure we all know how that season ended. Jonathan Broxton was also acquired at the deadline two seasons ago.

The Cardinals’ acquisition of Duke came out of left field. Virtually no websites (including our own) predicted Duke as a candidate for the Cardinals because of his heavy contact. Currently, he is in the second year of a 3-year $15 million dollar deal. Next year, Duke is set to make $5.5 million dollars. However, because of the high bar the Cubs and Yankees set for the reliever market with the Aroldis Chapman trade, this was a fair deal.

The Cardinals also had to give away Charlie Tilson, their 10th rated prospect according to Baseball America. However, this does not seem like that big of a blow especially if the Cardinals end up making the playoffs. According to multiple scouts, Tilson will likely max out as the team’s 4th outfielder. With numerous young outfielders ahead of him like Randal Grichuk, Tommy Pham, Stephen Piscotty, and even Harrison Bader, who is rising his stock as a prospect this year, it will be hard to find playing time for Tilson, even if he reaches his potential.

Duke offers tremendous versatility for the Cardinals and Mike Matheny. He will be the third lefty pitcher in the Cardinals bullpen; however, he can be used in both matchups as right handed batters are only batting .238 against him. With a high strikeout rake (10 K/9 innings), he can come in for specific situations or he could even handle a full inning. Duke will likely take Kevin Siegrist role as a specialist, allowing Siegrist to officially become Seung-hwan Oh’s set-up man.

In my opinion, this was a perfect trade. The Cardinals had money to spend and they gave away a low risk prospect in Tilson. Overall, the Cardinals filled a need in their team without giving away too much. Of course, if the Cardinals make the playoffs, the cost of eating the $5 million dollar per year salary will seem like nothing.

With the team set for the 2016 season baring injuries, it is now up to the 25 players on the field and Matheny to make the playoffs. Mozeliak has done his job.

Photo captured by Rick Osentoski- USA Today Sports