Mike Leake to Cardinals: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistDecember 22, 2015

San Francisco Giants pitcher Mike Leake works against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

For the second time in less than a year, Mike Leake has found a new home, agreeing to terms with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports first reported the deal, while Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reported the agreement is for five years and $75 million with an option for $18 million in 2021. However, Rosenthal reported the agreement is worth $80 million with a mutual option that could increase the value to $93-94 million, adding that there is a full no-trade clause.

"One of the game's most consistent performers," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said of Leake at his introductory press conference.

"His proven experience and all-around ability should be a real plus for us," Mozeliak added.

"I always enjoyed facing him and now I'm going to enjoy learning from him," Leake said of fellow starting pitcher Adam Wainwright.

The San Francisco Giants acquired the right-hander last summer from the Cincinnati Reds, getting no substantial value in return, as Leake had a 4.07 ERA in just 55.1 innings over nine starts.

Leake isn't a game-changing starter who will be in the Cy Young mix, but he's established himself as a strong innings-eater. The former first-round pick has made at least 30 starts covering at least 179 innings in each of the past four seasons. St. Louis especially needed to bolster its rotation after missing out on David Price, who went to the Boston Red Sox.

There are limitations to Leake's game, as Chris Cwik of Yahoo Sports pointed out after the Reds traded Leake to the Giants:

One of Leake's other issues is that, since he doesn't have exceptional swing and miss stuff, when he gets hit, he gets hit hard.

That can lead to some high home run totals. Some of those issues were due to Leake pitching in one of the friendlier hitter's parks while he was in Cincinnati. According to Statcorner.com, Great American Ball Park has one of the highest home run park factors in the game.

Pitching to contact isn't necessarily a bad thing. Leake keeps the ball on the ground, generating a 51.8 percent ground-ball rate in 2015, so pairing him with a strong infield defense will make him look even better.

Even though Leake wasn't one of the marquee starting pitchers available this offseason, he's one of the most valuable because he takes the ball every fifth day, throws five or six solid innings and gives the team a chance to win.

In this era of advanced metrics and analysis, Leake doesn't check all of the boxes, but he hits enough to be a terrific asset moving forward. The Cardinals will be thrilled to have the right-hander in the rotation as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter for the next few years.


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