10:12am: Both the Brewers and Rangers have shown some degree of interest in Leake, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets. It’s not clear whether either of those two clubs is the team about which thee Mariners approached Leake last night. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times further reports that Texas’ interest hinges on whether the deal Mike Minor.
While the Rangers have begun to operate as sellers, it’s also clear that Texas isn’t interested in a full-scale rebuild. President of baseball ops Jon Daniels and ownership surely want to field a competitive club as they open a new stadium next season, and while no one’s mistaking Leake for a top-of-the-rotation arm, he’d give them a stable option to take the ball every fifth day with generally competitive innings.
As for the Brewers, they’ve already picked up righty Jordan Lyles but have further rotation needs with Brandon Woodruff, Jhoulys Chacin, Jimmy Nelson and Corbin Burnes all sidelined. (Burnes has worked more in relief this season anyhow.) Chacin and Lyles will be free agents at season’s end, so there’s reason to look at adding an arm with additional control, even if the upside is limited.
6:41am: As a highly compensated member of a cellar-dwelling team, Mariners righty Mike Leake is a rather obvious trade candidate. But his full no-trade rights have complicated attempts to move him, and it has long been unclear whether a deal might be struck.
There was some anticipation that Leake could be shipped out in advance of his start last night. Indeed, as MLB.com’s Alyson Footer reports, Leake says that the Seattle front office actually brought a trade possibility to his attention before he took the ball. While details remain unclear, it seems that Leake was not the obstacle to the completion of the negotiations. Rather, the veteran righty indicates that he never heard word of a completed deal and instead made his start as scheduled.
With the trade deadline now just hours away, Leake’s assumption is that he’s staying put — though that doesn’t mean he has been given any assurances. “There’s still a possibility, I’m sure,” says Leake. “Right now, I look at it as I’m not getting traded. At this point, I think I’ll plan on being a Mariner for the rest of the year.”
The Seattle organization has spent much of the season re-shuffling its roster, finishing the work it started in the prior offseason. With intentions of a quick rebound to relevance, it’s possible to imagine Leake staying on as a member of the 2020 rotation. But he may still be dealt — if not today, then over the winter.
Leake is employed by the M’s but still being paid in part by the Cardinals, who signed him as a free agent before shipping him to Seattle. The veteran hurler is earning $16MM this year, $5MM of which is covered by the St. Louis org, and $15MM in 2020, with $4MM the responsibility of the Cards. There’s also a $5MM buyout on a 2021 mutual option.
While those hefty obligations pose a theoretical barrier to a deal, the Mariners have shown a willingness to eat salary in other recent swaps and have obviously found willing trade partners. For those contenders looking for some stability in the back end of their rotation, few hurlers come with more stamped-and-sealed credentials as Leake. With eight more starts this season, he’ll hit the 30-start mark for the eighth-straight season.
It’s not exactly an exciting profile, but Leake remains a useful pitcher. He turned in a middling performance following the pre-game distraction yesterday, surrendering 10 hits and 5 earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. On the season, the 31-year-old has been about as steady as he’s always been, with a 4.40 ERA through 137 innings. His strikeout rates remain fairly pedestrian at 6.6 K/9, but Leake has never been better at limiting free passes and presently carries a league-best 1.2 BB/9 mark.