News: Cardinals trade Mike Leake to Mariners

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals have traded RHP Mike Leake, cash, and international cap money to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for minor league SS Rayder Ascanio.

The story. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale first reported last night at the Cardinals were close to trading Leake and it was confirmed this morning by both Nightengale and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal that Leake had waived his no trade clause to complete the trade. Both clubs confirmed the deal around noon.

The numbers. Mike Leake is in the second year of a 5 year, $80 million deal that he signed before the 2015 season and, except for a stellar start to this season, Leake’s nearly two year stint with the Cardinals can only be considered a disappointment.

He will end his time with the Cardinals with a 4.46 ERA in 56 starts. After posting near career bests in all the fielding independent pitcher metrics last season, Leake came out strong in 2017 posting a 2.97 ERA over his first 16 starts. But this summer the wheels fell off as he managed just a 6.94 ERA over his final 10 starts, culminating in a 7 inning, 4 run performance this weekend as the Cardinals won.

Rayder Ascanio, 21, was signed by the Mariners as an international free agent out of Venezuela at 16. In 111 games between low A, high A, and Triple-A this season, he has hit .217 with 9 home runs. Based on the scouting reports I could find, he seems to be a defensive whiz with very little bat. Which is what the stats tell me as well.

The impact. 9/10. Mike Leake was one of the few Cardinals that they had signed to long-term deals and it appeared like he was poised to be a crucial piece in that rotation for the duration of it.

Before Leake signed with the Cardinals in 2015, there were reports that Leake preferred to play on the west coast to be closer to his family that lives in Arizona. It was suggested as one of the top reasons he would not sign with the Cardinals, but he ended up here anyway. It sounds like the Cardinals had been trying to trade Leake for awhile too, which makes me wonder who initiated the desire to trade him.

This deal makes you wonder what the angle is for the Cardinals. They free up some room in their payroll budget. Are they going to make a play for a star closer like Wade Davis? Are they going to go after re-signing Lance Lynn? Is it to free up space to acquire another pitcher by trade? Or could it be to do none of the above and just cash out in distributions to ownership?

This spring I made my case about bringing back Lynn because the Cardinals will need to fill innings in their rotation. Relying on young arms wasn’t going to make this team better in 2018 than they were in 2017 and this trade would seem to make it an even more pressing matter. Consider that the Cardinals have no starting pitcher penciled into their 2018 rotation that I would be willing to bet money on making 32 starts next year.

Immediately, this will provide a good opportunity for a young pitcher, most likely Jack Flaherty, to get some starts at the big league level until Adam Wainwright is ready to come off the disabled list. That would line them up for an opportunity next season.

In the future, Ascanio is the definition of a lottery pick type prospect. If his bat could ever develop well enough so that his glove deserved to play, an Adeiny Hecchavaria-type shortstop seems to be a good comp for his ceiling.