6:44pm: The Nationals’ interest in Leake has cooled off, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Washington is now pursuing other pitchers, Rosenthal adds, and a deal with Leake is considered to be unlikely.
3:17pm: Rizzo confirmed that the club had made an offer to Leake, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports (Twitter links), though he said that was true of many other players and added that the club hasn’t been very active on the market for starters.
Of course, even as Rizzo spoke, Buster Olney of ESPN.com was reporting on Twitter that the Nats “have made progress” towards signing Leake.
1:16pm: Washington has extended Leake an offer, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. He adds that the team is “pushing” to get a deal done, reflecting the earlier report and suggesting that there’s serious interest from the Nats.
10:11am: The Nationals are among several teams “making [a] push” for free agent righty Mike Leake, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. We’ve heard Leake tied to numerous other organizations in recent weeks, including teams such as the Giants and Cardinals.
MLBTR’s Steve Adams profiled Leake recently, explaining that his market appeal lies in a combination of age, health, the lack of a qualifying offer, and solid production. Both Adams and MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes have predicted five-year, $80MM contract for Leake, placing him among the 15 or so free agents with the greatest expected earning power.
Washington represents a surprising addition to the market for Leake. The team was a notable pursuer of Ben Zobrist and has been busy in the relief market, but hasn’t been connected with any starting pitchers despite losing Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister to free agency.
That’s because the Nats already have a solid rotation lined up for 2016. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez would represent the clear top three, with Tanner Roark and Joe Ross looking like a solid 4-5 pairing and youngster like A.J. Cole and Lucas Giolito knocking on the door.
Of course, as I explained in the Nationals’ offseason outlook, there are numerous possibilities for creative action this winter for Rizzo and co. It’s certainly possible to imagine that a Leake signing could work in concert with some other move involving one of the team’s current starters. Or, bumping other arms into the bullpen could function to bolster a relief corps in need of depth.