As I tweeted Sunday morning, “Good news: The Cardinals acquired a left handed pitcher from the White Sox. Bad news: It wasn’t Chris Sale.” But it really wasn’t bad news at all. The Cardinals acquired left-handed reliever Zach Duke in exchange for minor league outfielder Charlie Tilson.
Duke, 33, has a 2.63 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in an America League leading 53 relief appearances this season. He has a 159 ERA+ which would slot him in third in the Cardinals’ bullpen behind Seung-hwan Oh (240 ERA+) and Kevin Siegrist (165 ERA+).
Since the beginning of the 2014 season, the first season where he truly became a reliever, he has a 137 ERA+. That would be better than any other Cardinal reliever has been since the beginning of the 2014 season.
The only other time Duke was dealt mid-season was from the Nationals to the Reds in 2013. He wrapped up the year with a 0.84 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 14 appearances.
Duke is signed through the 2017 season. The Cardinals are on the hook for the remainder of his $5 million salary this season and $5.5 million next season.
It was a typical John Mozeliak trade. Good value without giving up much in return. In comparison to what pitchers like Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller commanded on the trade market, this could easily be a steal.
In exchange, the Cardinals will be sending Charlie Tilson. Tilson was hitting .282 with 16 doubles, 8 triples, and 4 home runs for Memphis. He’d already tied Stubby Clapp and Kolten Wong for the team record in triples with a month left to play. The 23 year old Tilson was a second round pick of the Cardinals from the 2011 draft. He had been a slow burning prospect, but had improved every year.
Tilson wasn’t ready for the Majors and likely wasn’t going to be ready for that jump next summer either, but received a spot on the team’s 40 man roster last November to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. So he would have burned two options before even making an MLB appearance. The emergence of Harrison Bader, who was Baseball America’s #89 prospect on their mid-season update, also likely played a role in Tilson’s availability.