The front office’s focus this winter is to add pitching to the roster. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer said they would like to add at least one quality starting pitcher, either through a free agent signing or a trade. The Cubs lack of pitching depth could lead to the team acquiring multiple starters.
The Cubs have been connected to top of the rotation free agents David Price, Jordan Zimmermann and Zack Greinke and mid-rotation free agents John Lackey and Jeff Samardzija.
Epstein and Hoyer could also trade for controllable young arms with upside that would slot in behind Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta in the rotation. The Cubs are believed to have Carlos Carrasco (Indians), Danny Salazar (Indians) and Tyson Ross (Padres) at the top of that list that could also include Julio Teheran (Braves).
If the Cubs go the free agent route to add depth to the starting rotation and try to sign a “veteran innings guy, third or fourth starter, a stabilizer” as Peter Gammons suggested last week, a pitcher they have not been linked to by the mainstream media or reliable sources is Mike Leake, and he could fit the team’s needs.
Mike Leake turns 28 next week (Nov. 12) and was a combined 11-10 in 30 starts between the Reds and Giants with a 3.70 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 4.20 FIP. Leake has made at least 30 starts in each of his last four seasons. And Leake has topped 190 innings the last three years with a career-high 214 1/3 innings in 2014.
Over the course of his career, Leake has struggled against left handed bats (.277/.323/.409) while limiting right handers to a .254/.305/.371 line. This past season, righties hit .218/.277/.326 against him and lefties batted .262/.305/.392.
Leake has been very effective against teams in the National League Central during his career, even with his home park being the Great American Launching Pad. And this is where Leake’s value could be to the Cubs.
This past season, Leake was 2-0 in four starts against the Pirates with a 2.03 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. And he was almost as good against the Cardinals. Leake posted a 1-1 record in three starts with a 2.42 ERA and 0.72 WHIP. Leake made one start versus the Brewers and was 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.83 WHIP. Leake allowed three runs on eight hits with three walks and four strikeouts in six innings, a quality start.
In 17 games, 16 career starts, versus the Cardinals, Leake is 5-7 with a 4.42 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. At Busch Stadium, Leake is 2-2 in six career starts with a 3.19 ERA and 0.90 WHIP.
Leake has made 24 starts against the Pirates and is 8-3 with a 3.01 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. Leake owns a 3-3 record in 13 starts at PNC Park with a 2.46 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.
The Brewers have been more of a challenge to Leake over his career than any other team in the NL Central. Leake is 2-4 in 10 starts with a 4.60 ERA and 1.52 WHIP. At Miller Park, Leake is 2-2 in seven starts with a 5.06 ERA and 1.59 WHIP.
Granted Leake has faced some rather poor Cubs teams over his career, but he is 3-2 in 10 career starts at Wrigley Field with a 4.20 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. Seven of the 30 runs, 12 of the 63 hits and three of the 10 longballs he’s allowed at Wrigley came in two starts this past season.
Mike Leake was paid $9.775 million in 2015 and could be looking at similar AAVs of Ervin Santana (four years, $55 million), Matt Garza (four years, $50 million) and Brandon McCarthy (four years, $48 million) with a four- or five-year contract in the $12-16 million range per season.
Leake was traded from the Reds to the Giants in-season and is not eligible to receive a qualifying offer. There is reportedly considerable mutual interest in Leake signing a long-term contract with the Giants. Leake might not be an option, but unless he’s committed to the Giants, the numbers say Epstein and Hoyer should look into what it would take to sign him.
With the focus moving forward to win the division and avoid the Wild Card Game, Leake’s career numbers against the Cardinals, Pirates and Brewers could be a benefit to the Cubs over the course of his contract.