Duncan increasing his trade value?

by on July 21, 2008 · 3 comments

Before I get too far in, I will preface this post by saying these things:

I am not a huge Chris Duncan fan.  I think he is a minus on defense (in the outfield – he doesn’t get enough innings at 1B to make that a reason why he’s on the club).  I can’t stand watching him flail away at pitches in the dirt, many of which are first pitches after the previous hitter (or two) have walked.  I hate that Ryan Ludwick is forced to sit sometimes in order to get Duncan at-bats (I know, Luddy has to have a day off every now and again too).  I so appreciate it when he does contribute, the guy can hit the ball hard when he makes contact, solid contact just seems few and far between sometimes.

All that being said, I don’t agree with a lot of Cardinal fans who believe that he remains on the team solely because his father, Dave Duncan, is the pitching coach.  I shudder to think that Bill DeWitt or John Mozeliak would allow themselves to be manipulated like that by Daddy Dunc or Tony LaRussa, and say what you will about Tony, but I don’t think he would pull such a stunt.

I think to some extent, it is a matter of hanging on to past glory or trying to rekindle something that isn’t there anymore or was a mirage.  See: Jason Isringhausen.  Lil’ Dunc had a great half-season in 2006, started to slip a bit last year but still put up very respective numbers (.259/.354/.480) in 2007, and this year his struggles have been well-documented.  I just don’t think Tony is ready to cut the cord yet.  He may not have to.  Mo might do it for him.

Duncan was roundly criticized early in the season, prior to his demotion to AAA Memphis, for not hitting well.  It would’ve been more accurate to say not hitting for power well.  He was hitting .252 at the time, with a .356 OBP.  Not horrible numbers for what I think can be reasonably expected of him.  But his slugging percentage was .386.  Blech.  Not only was he not hitting for much power, he was barely hitting for any power.  At that point in the season Duncan only had nine extra-base hits, only four of which were home runs, in 127 at-bats.  Not very good.

To make matter worse, when he was optioned to Memphis to “find his power stroke,” he managed to hit worse down there.  Hastily (at least in this scribe’s opinion) recalled to the big club when Albert Pujols went down with his calf injury, Duncan continued his statistical descent with the Cardinals.  From June 11 to June 21, Duncan hit .158/.220/.158.  Putrid.  His season OPS bottomed out that game at .659.

Fast forward to today, and Duncan has made an astounding turn-around in his season.  Starting with the last game of the series in Boston on June 22 and continuing through yesterday’s win versus the Padres, Duncan is raking at a .315/.413/.481 clip, good for an .894 OPS.  I don’t know about you, but I’d be ecstatic if you told me prior to this season that Dunc would hit at an .894 OPS clip.  So Duncan is *seemingly* starting to turn things around.  Maybe he’s seeing the ball a bit better?  Maybe his mental state is improving?  Whatever it is, it’s working.

He couldn’t have chosen a better time to heat up.  MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline is right around the corner, and the Cards have needs.  Primarily, they need bullpen help.  What they don’t need right now, is the current glut of outfielders they have between Memphis and the big club.

What I am about to suggest is not entirely new, but given recent developments, I think it’s valid to revisit.

Viva El Birdos last week suggested acquiring Jarrod Washburn from the Seattle Mariners.  Washburn is struggling a bit this season, and the Mariners are anxious to rid themselves of his $10MM salary for next season.  Presumably, Washburn could be had for a middling prospect, VEB proposed Mike Parisi.

Well, Seattle also happens to have a decent, veteran left-handed relief pitcher on their squad, Arthur Rhodes.  Why not kill two birds with one stone here?  Why not acquire Washburn to eat up innings (he’s been very durable for a lower end of the rotation guy), and Rhodes to (hopefully) correct some of the bullpen’s woes?

It just so happens that Seattle recently came into a need for a first-baseman.  Obviously, they’re not chasing anything this season other than their own tails, so it’s not a pressing need – but with Richie Sexson released, they have a hole.  They also have a DH slot available in their lineup.  It seems Chris Duncan, still only 27, would be a great fit for the Mariners.  So maybe you don’t even give up a Parisi – maybe it’s Duncan and minor considerations beyond that.  Duncan and Anthony Reyes (who the Cards pretty clearly seem to have given up on)?  Duncan and Cody Haerther?  Duncan and Parisi (assuming Parisi alone wouldn’t have been enough to land Washburn)?

There are options – and the Cardinals have plenty to fill Dunc’s current role with the big league squad.  Joe Mather comes to mind as one guy to fill the exact same role, OF and 1B.  Plus, he’s right-handed, which in my opinion is a plus – I think they’ve got plenty of left-handed hitting outfielders as it is.  Nick Stavinoha could reasonably assume the OF/1B slot.  Brian Barton can play the fifth outfielder without too much problem.

I’m sure most will think what I’m proposing gives up too much for Rhodes and Washburn.  I’m sure many would prefer to hang onto Duncan if he continues to improve at this rate.

What I do know is that Brian Fuentes isn’t going to come cheaply.  Ron Mahay might not even be available.

John Mozeliak could potentially cross two items off of his mid-season to-do list without giving up a single projected top prospect.  That would seem to be a win in my book…

Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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StLCards July 22, 2008

So much for Duncan trade value as he just hit the DL again with a bulging disk in his neck. I don’t necessarily agree that Duncan needs to go, but I do agree that his defense needs work. Why should he stay? Power for one. He definitely has power and we certainly need that off the bench. I’m a bit tired of seeing pitchers or singles hitters coming up in the 9th inning when we need a bomb.

Duncan can also be a suitable backup at 1B to spell Albert once in a while. I really wish they would give him a bit more time off really. Problem of course is that Duncan doesn’t belong in the big leagues right now, so while that seems to be a contradiction, that I say we should keep Duncan, I’m really saying keep him for the future. He is still very young and this could just be a learning curve, and besides, who could you trade him for anyway? Certainly we’d be selling low.

Just listned to Tony’s post game interview after losing the second game in a row to Milw. Of course he has a point about scoring more runs, but come on. If we had someone in the pen who was shutting people down we could have put him in the 7th and saved those last runs. Problem was then we’d be back to Izzy to save the game and that wasn’t going to happen. I’d say we need to sign a closer at this point and put Franklin back to the 8th.

PHE July 22, 2008

I agree with you about power off the bench – but why not do that with Mather, a player who might actually have a future on this team?

Duncan is 27 – young enough yes, but not young enough to stick on this team when Ankiel, Rasmus, and Ludwick are in front of him – and I’d argue that Barton would be in front of him on the depth chart as well. Mather can fill the backup 1B role as well.

Rumor has it that the Pirates have interest in both Duncan and Reyes. Could we package them for Marte? Perhaps, but the LHRP market will be flooded with buyers. Maybe set sights a bit lower and try to pull Grabow and Jack Wilson? I wouldn’t be upset with that deal.

Tony has to say that about the bullpen. They are already fighting a fractured confidence, much less to have the manager rag on them. I agree, the offense needs to put up more runs, especially in close and late situations. But to say that tonight’s loss was the offense’s fault is ludicrous.

Tonight’s loss was on the bullpen in more ways than one, they are getting creative with adversely affecting this team. Tony had to leave Lohse in there probably longer than he should have because he has no confidence in his bullpen (not to mention overworked arms). So when he finally did turn to the bullpen, they blew it.

A shocking amount of influence this pen has on this team’s psyche and confidence right now.

I think a big move to get a Sherrill, or a Mahay, or even just an Arthur Rhodes or John Grabow right now would be huge for this team. I will hedge my bets – I don’t want to see any top prospects going – but if the Pirates like Dunc and Reyes, by all means, ship them out.

Finally, why not McClellan at closer (tonight notwithstanding)? Why not Springer? At this point, I almost think roles have to be thrown out the window – just pitch a guy who hasn’t been beaten up lately.

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