With so many big names available on the starting pitching market, it seems like Mike Leake gets left out of the conversation a lot. Recently though, it was reported that the Cubs were interested and speaking to his representation and it took a lot of fans by surprise.
Let’s take a look at why the front office was interested in Mike Leake and what he could bring to a team on the rise.
Leake should be fairly familiar to Cubs fans due to spending most of his six-year career with the Cincinnati Reds. In that time, he has a 64-52 record, 3.88 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 730 strikeouts in 1083.2 innings. Last season, he split time between the Reds and Giants with an 11-10 record in 30 starts, 3.70 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 119 strikeouts in 192 innings. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound right-hander relies on a fastball that generally sits right around 90 mph with good cutting action and movement. Secondarily, he uses a slider that sits near 80 mph, a weak change-up and the occasional curve. He’s not much of a strikeout pitcher and mostly uses his control and good command to generate ground ball outs. He also doesn’t walk many batters either with just 275 free passes in his career which helps him avoid the big inning. An added bonus to Leake’s game is his ability in the batter box. The Cubs pitchers’ batted an atrocious .110 while Leake has a career .212 batting average with six home runs.
However, Leake can be pretty susceptible to the long ball at times. In his six year career, he has given up 20 or more home runs in five of those seasons. Part of the reasoning probably lies in the fact that lefties hit .277/.324/.444 with 70 home runs against Leake. He’s also not much of an innings eater either topping 200 innings just once in his career. His career FIP also suggests that Leake has been fairly lucky in his career as his 4.21 mark is almost a half run higher than his career ERA.
Because Leake doesn’t rely on velocity as much as most pitchers available on the market, it’s possible that the 28-year old who isn’t tied to draft pick compensation could age quite well. He’s been reported at seeking a deal at around five years and $80 million. The mark is a noticeable step down from more talented pitchers like Jeff Samardzija or Jordan Zimmermann, but admittedly high because of his age and overall durability.
The estimated contract amount and length is right along the lines of a similar pitcher in Rick Porcello who signed a four-year, $82.5 million extension with the Red Sox that’s set to kick in this season. Like Leake, Porcello relies more on his control and groundballs than on his velocity. His results have been a little more inconsistent than Leake but he probably has better overall tools. Either way, $20 million per year for Porcello is a little steep, but $16 million a year for Leake is a better rate and equal to new signing John Lackey.
Signing Leake would certainly add further depth to the rotation. Now with Lackey, he’s probably a more reliable version of Kyle Hendricks and would slot in the fourth or fifth slot. This would allow Hendricks to hone his craft with less expectations in the minors and give Jason Hammel a chance to bounce-back or even be traded. However, because of his age, he might price himself out of the Cubs price range.
Free Agent Profiles
• Follow Chris on Twitter: @TheChrisKulawik