The St. Louis Cardinals have landed the starting rotation upgrade they’ve been looking for, inking right-hander Mike Leake to a five-year, $80 million deal, FOX Sports‘ Ken Rosenthal reported.
With an option for a sixth year, Leake could potentially bring home over $93 million with his new deal.
Source: Leake deal is five years, $80M with mutual option that could increase total value to $93M/$94M range.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 22, 2015
“I think we can be the best,” Leake said to ESPN after the signing became official. “If they name me the No. 5 guy, that’s fine with me.”
Leake, 28, split time between the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants in 2015. After going 9-5 with a 3.56 ERA in 21 starts for the Reds, the Giants acquired Leake at the trade deadline as they tried to make the playoffs. But Leake’s nine-start stint with the Giants did not go smoothly. A strained hamstring after his first start in San Francisco required a stint on the disabled list, and overall Leake went 2-5 with a 4.07 ERA with the Giants.
Combined, Leake finished 2015 with an 11-10 record and a 3.70 ERA in 192 innings pitched.
In Leake, the Cardinals acquire a reliable veteran who can soak up quality innings. While the team reportedly considered lower cost options such as Yovani Gallardo and Wei-Yin Chen, the appeal of not having to surrender a draft pick — due to Leake being traded last season — was likely the deciding factor.
As noted by MLB Trade Rumors, Leake has posted three consecutive seasons of a sub-3.75 ERA and at least 192 innings pitched. Also, he remained consistent while spending his first seven-and-a-half seasons pitching at the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark.
Now, Leake will join a rotation that already features Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, and Jaime Garcia. Aside from Wacha and Martinez, the Cardinals’ rotation carries a lot of injury questions, so the durable and dependable Leake should provide some stability.
This offseason has not been kind to the Cardinals thus far. First, the team lost starter Lance Lynn to Tommy John Surgery, putting him out commission for all of 2016. Then, the team was outbid by the Boston Red Sox in the David Price sweepstakes. But the bad luck in free agency did not end with Price.
The Chicago Cubs completed a mini-raid of the Cardinals’ 2015 roster. First, the team signed veteran starter John Lackey to a two-year, $32 million deal. However, the Cardinals then lost out on outfielder Jason Heyward as the Cubs signed him to an eight-year, $184 million deal.
In the same interview with ESPN, Leake did not shy away from giving his feelings on playing against the Cubs.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t mind taking them down.”
The Arizona Diamondbacks had been an aggressive suitor for Leake, but after signing Zack Greinke and trading for Shelby Miller; Leake was no longer needed. With the Diamondbacks in his rear view mirror, Leake is excited to join the Cardinals’ pitching staff.
“Honestly, once Arizona got out of the picture I was open to whatever team I felt fit my needs the best. [Arizona] was my No. 1. Coming here has turned into my new No. 1.”
[Featured Image by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]