By Adam Kaufman, from Cardsblog.com
Cardinals acquire Zach Duke from White Sox for Charlie Tilson
With the July 31st trade deadline quickly approaching, it was clear that middle relief was a major need for the team. Their starting pitching was unable to consistently pitch deep into games, so acquiring a veteran southpaw capable of retiring both lefties and righties to bridge the gap to Seung-hwan Oh was the perfect fit.
This sort of move is what has endeared John Mozeliak to the Cardinals faithful over the years. His deals don't always make a huge splash, but they always fill a need, and usually at a reasonable price. In this case, that price was 23 year old outfield prospect Charlie Tilson.
Tilson entered the season as the Cards #12 overall prospect, and while he's best known for his speed (46 SB in 2015 at AA), he's never stood out much as a hitter. To flip this sort of guy for a solid major league contributor like Zach Duke is exactly the kind of deal that a contending team like the Cardinals was supposed to make, and Duke make Mozeliak look like a genius.
In his stint with the Cards, Duke had a 1.93 ERA while stranding 22 of 25 inherited runners. Best of all, he's signed through 2017, so you can pretty much pencil him into that bullpen through next October at least.
Cardinals acquire Jose Martinez from Royals for cash considerations
This one flew under the radar a bit, but the Cardinals reached a deal with the Royals in late May for 27-year-old outfielder Jose Martinez. Martinez was a lifetime minor leaguer, having played in over 800 games, and while he's shown some promise with the bat, he's never been seen as a true prospect.
He hit .269/.326/.415 in 87 games with AAA Memphis after the deal, and was rewarded with a September callup. After more than 10 years in the minors, Martinez made his Major League debut on September 6th, and managed to go 7 for 16 (.438) in his brief stint with the big league club. While he likely won't be a major contributor for the Cards in the future, he represents important depth in the minors in case injury strikes.
It's a short list of in-season transactions that's for sure. I couldn't really believe it that from April to October, Mozeliak only saw two chances to improve his roster from the outside that he deemed beneficial. Honestly, with the way the season turned out, being within a game of the postseason, it really makes you think about what could have been. There's something to be said for practicing restraint, and not depleting your farm system for a two-month rental.
But on the other side of things, being too passive and letting opportunities pass by while the NL Wild Card was pretty clearly up for grabs is tough to reflect upon. That's not to say the Cardinals needed to acquire Andrew Miller, Rich Hill, and Zach Duke, but Duke and another piece may just have been enough to push the Cardinals over the top and back into the postseason for a sixth consecutive year.
Mozeliak was about as conservative as a GM could be, and maybe in three years we'll look back and be thankful that he didn't deal away Alex Reyes or Luke Weaver. Right now, though, this season still stings. Sure, the one major deal for Duke definitely panned out, but not fully committing to the role of "buyer" come July is a tough pill to swallow.