STL signs starter Leake

Deal is for five years for $80 million

By Jenifer Langosch MLB.com

ST. LOUIS — Following their unsuccessful pursuit of outfielder Jason Heyward, the Cardinals turned their Hot Stove attention back to pitching, with general manager John Mozeliak particularly zeroing in on ways to augment the club’s rotation depth. He found that desired fit in right-hander and first-time free agent Mike Leake. Leake was unveiled in a news conference on Tuesday to announce the signing. According to a report from FOX Sports, the contract includes a full no-trade clause and is for $80 million over five years with a mutual option that could increase the value of the deal to $94 million. “We are pleased to announce the addition of Mike Leake to our starting rotation,” Mozeliak said in a news release. “Mike is considered to be one of the game’s most consistent performers and he is certainly no stranger to the National League and the NL Central. His proven experience and all-around ability should be a real plus for us.” Over a six-year career, Leake, 28, is 64-52 with a 3.88 ERA. He has those numbers despite making 85 of his 172 career starts at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. Leake made his Major League debut with the Reds in 2010, becoming the first pitcher since 1989 to go from the Draft to the Majors without logging any Minor League service time. Leake spent the first five-plus years of his career with Cincinnati before being traded to the Giants at the 2015 Trade Deadline. In 30 starts between Cincinnati and San Francisco last season, he went 11-10 with a 3.70 ERA. Because he changed teams midseason, Leake could not be made a qualifying offer at the end of the year. That means the Cardinals, who are currently positioned to have three of the top 40 picks in the 2016 Draft, do not have to forfeit their first-round Draft pick by signing him. Leake joins a Cardinals rotation projected to also include Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia and Carlos Martinez. Marco Gonzales, Tim Cooney and Tyler Lyons offer additional rotation depth. The Cardinals first turned a serious eye toward the starting-pitching market in November, when they learned Lance Lynn would miss the 2016 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. With Lynn sidelined and veteran John Lackey gone, the Cardinals lost 40 percent of their rotation’s 2015 innings coverage. Leake has reached the 200-innings mark just once in his career, but he’s thrown at least 192 in three straight seasons. Each of the last four years, he has made a minimum of 30 starts. In six career starts at Busch Stadium, Leake is 2-2 with a 3.19 ERA and 0.898 WHIP. With a 3.82 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP across four consecutive 30-start seasons from 2012-15, Leake has proved to be a reliable rotation asset in mixed leagues. While he would need to dramatically improve on his lifetime 6.1 K/9 rate to be an upper-tier fantasy starter, the right-hander could take his performance to a slightly higher level with the Cardinals. Having spent most of his career dealing with an offense-inducing home park in Cincinnati, the native Californian has posted a lifetime 4.28 ERA at home as opposed to a 3.48 mark on the road. With the benefits of playing for a club with a pitcher-friendly venue, talented supporting cast and stalwart defensive catcher in Yadier Molina, Leake could be on the verge of a career year.

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