Cardinals Sign Mike Leake

Fresh off getting spurned by Heyward, the Cardinals have dusted themselves off and gotten back in the game and found another one to love.  Mike Leake and the Cards have agreed to a 5 year, 80 million dollar deal with a mutual option that would bump the contract up to 93/94 total.  The deal includes a full no trade clause.

The Cardinals have been after a rotation upgrade all winter, starting with their high-profile pursuit of David Price.  The Cardinals made the second-best offer to Price, edging out the rival Cubs, but their seven-year offer was worth $30MM less than that of the Red Sox.  Over the last few weeks, the Cardinals have continued to scan the market, though they were known to be averse to signing any player who had rejected the qualifying offer.  Quality pitchers like Yovani Gallardo, Ian Kennedy, and Wei-Yin Chen are still available as of this writing, but the Cardinals were not terribly interested in sacrificing a draft pick in order to sign any of them.  The Cardinals were also keeping an eye on Scott Kazmir, but he almost certainly will not be signing in St. Louis now.

In 2015, for the second consecutive year, Leake posted a 3.70 ERA, marking three straight seasons with a sub-3.75 ERA and at least 190 innings.  All but two months of those three years came while pitching his home games at an extremely hitter-friendly home venue: Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park.  Leake was able to thrive in large part due to his excellent control (2.3 BB/9 for his career) and his strong ground-ball rate.  Leake’s 50.2 percent career mark in that regard is impressive, and it’s ticked upwards over the past two seasons, now siting closer to 53 percent.  And, though he has just one season of 200-plus innings, Leake has been virtually injury free throughout his career.

While Leake is not the current hotness, posting average velocity and strikeout numbers, he is a quality starting pitcher with a focus on getting right handed hitters out.  His ability to keep the ball on the ground should fare pretty well in St. Louis.

11 thoughts on “Cardinals Sign Mike Leake

      1. The overall price isn’t that bad. 5/80 averages out to $16M, and at the going rate of roughly $8M per WAR this offseason, he’ll probably be good for about 2 WAR a year on average.

        It’s not an overpay, but it’s not a bargain either. And there’s not exactly much upside potential for Leake, considering his best fWAR ever was just 2.3 in 2014. Assuming he stays healthy, he seems likely to give them pretty much exactly what they are paying for, but nothing extra.

        It’s an entirely meh signing, with the only real issues being the 5-year length of the deal and the full no-trade clause.

        And given that the Cubs are pretty well stocked with lefty lumber in Rizzo, Schwarber, Heyward, and switch-hitting Zobrist…I’m not even a tiny bit worried about facing him multiple times a year.

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        1. It also makes Lackey’s 2y/$32M deal look outstanding. It already looked good as soon as the ink was dry…(aside from Lackey being a massive douchehammer)…but it’s looking even better now. It’s entirely plausible that Lackey provides more value in his 2 years than Leake will in his first 3.

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      2. Nah, it doesn’t make the Lackey signing any better.

        Leake has a 50/50 shot (at least) to out pitch Lackey the next 2 years and he’s likely worth at least a win more than Lackey on defense and with the bat.

        Leake is kinda similar to Heyward in that their value comes from being a well rounded player. He’s among the best hitting pitcher and best fielding pitchers in the majors (whereas Lackey is among the worst fielding pitchers in the majors every year). Lackey will have to be substantially better than Leake at pitching just to be worth the same overall.

        Viewing this signing while ignoring hitting and defense is like people complaining that Heyward was overpaid because he doesn’t hit for power and they don’t care about defense in RF. Defense at every position matter, and hitting from every position matters.

        Is it a great deal? Not really. Is it better than signing a 37 yr old John Lackey and giving up a pick to do so? Yeah.

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      3. Playing a little fast and loose with the numbers there, huh?

        B-Ref has Leake as worth slightly more than half a win per year at the plate. It’s also got him replacement-level on defense. This is not at all comparable to the defensive value that Heyward brings to the field, because pitchers simply do not hit enough for their offensive contributions to be anything but marginal. In six seasons, played exclusively for NL teams, Mike Leake has come to the plate 411 times. Those 70 plate appearances a year are a real game-changer, there. Also, his offensive numbers are buoyed by two seasons when he went gang-busters at the plate, back in 2010 and 2012. Not sure how relevant the BABIP-fueled campaigns of his early career are now.

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      4. Past three seasons for Mike Leake: 200AB’s, .160/.172/.280, 0.9 bWAR (with almost all that value in 2014, and 0 on defense).

        Past three seasons for John Lackey: 82AB’s, .110/.151/.134, -0.3 bWAR (with +0.1 dWAR).

        Neither has any significant impact with the bat, and both are exactly league average defensively. Lackey has been significantly better as a pitcher, 9.4 bWAR vs 7.3 for Leake.

        The only thing Leake has going for him is that he is younger. I don’t see any way that he was the better deal however. Leake is at his absolute best a merely league average #4 starter. Lackey at his worst is league average, and they are committed to him only for two years vs 5 for Leake.

        Sorry, Cubs won this comparison, and it really wasn’t close.

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