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.