After spending much of the offseason searching for a rotation upgrade, the Cardinals got the job done on Tuesday when they signed Mike Leake to a five-year deal worth a guaranteed $80MM. The deal, which includes a mutual option that can boost the deal to $93-94MM and a full no-trade clause, gives the Cardinals some much-needed support on the backend of their starting five. This offseason, St. Louis lost right-hander John Lackey to free agency and right-hander Lance Lynn will be out after getting Tommy John surgery.
Here’s a look at some of the reactions to Leake’s hefty payday:
- Leake had discussions with teams about doing a three-year deal at $20MM per season with opt-outs after each year, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com hears (on Twitter). Ultimately, however, Leake signed on for a guaranteed average annual value of $16MM over five seasons.
- The Leake signing includes a hidden benefit for the Cardinals, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Leake did not cost the Cards a draft pick since the mid-season deal sending him to San Francisco made him ineligible for a qualifying offer. The Cardinals, meanwhile, picked up an additional two picks when they lost Lackey and Jason Heyward to the Cubs in free agency. Teams generally view a late-first round pick as being worth $5-8MM, sources tell Rosenthal, so the net cost for signing Leake might be something closer to $72-75MM for St. Louis.
- Leake’s consistency and durability make him ideal fit for the Cardinals, Keith Law of ESPN.com writes (Insider sub. req’d). Law argues that Leake’s deal is about the going rate for a league-average starter right now but his ability to eat up innings and induce ground balls make him an ideal fit for the Cards. Leake has made over 30 starts in each of the last four seasons and has never suffered an arm injury. The Cardinals need an innings eater badly and ground ball pitching is something that they value highly, Law writes.
- The $80MM deal might seem steep at first glance, but Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs took a stab at justifying it for St. Louis. Among the arguments made is that Leake is only 28 years of age. He was one of the youngest free agent hurlers available this winter and unlike other available under-30 pitchers, Leake has a history of being dependable.
- On Wednesday, MLB Trade Rumors’ Instagram account unveiled a sneak peak at what Leake will look like in his new jersey.