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Cardinals trade Leake to Mariners

The Cardinals announced this morning that they have traded RHP Mike Leake, cash, and international cap money to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for minor league shortstop Rayder Ascanio.

What happened

Initially reported by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale last night that the Cardinals were close to trading Leake, it was confirmed this morning after Leake waived his no trade clause. The clubs confirmed the trade around noon. Reportedly the Cardinals will pay roughly 25% of Leake’s remaining salary. So this move is looking like a contract dump and to open up a roster spot.

What does this mean

Leake is in the second year of a 5 year, $80 million deal that he signed before the 2015 season with the Cardinals 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 ends his Cardinals career with a 4.46 ERA in 56 starts with the Cardinals. He started the season with a 2.97 ERA in his first 16 starts and looked like he was set to deliver on his contract, but then the wheels fell off as he has a 6.94 ERA over his last 10 starts this season, culminating in a 7 IP, 4 ER performance as the Cardinals won this weekend.

Reports were when Leake signed that he wanted to play on the west coast to be closer to his family in Arizona. It was listed as one of the top reasons that he would not sign with the Cardinals when their interest was made known, but he signed anyway. It sounds like the Cardinals had been trying to trade him for awhile too.

Ascanio, 21, was signed by the Mariners in the winter of 2012 as a 16 year old international free agent out of Venezuela. In 111 games between low A, high A, and Triple-A this season he has hit .217 with 9 home runs. The scouting reports I could find suggest that he is considered a defensive whiz with very little bat.

Impact

The impact is a 9/10. Leake was one of the few Cardinals players signed to long-term contracts and his movement makes you wonder what the next step for the team is. Is it to pursue a free agent closer like Wade Davis? Is it to make a play at resigning Lance Lynn? Is it to free up space to acquire another pitcher by trade? Is it to do none of the above and cash out in distributions to the ownership?

This spring when I made my case about resigning Lynn, I pointed out that I felt that the Cardinals needed to either bring Lynn back to bring in another like quality pitcher to replace him in the rotation. Relying on young arms wasn’t going to bridge the gap to make this club better in 2018 than they were in 2017. This move would seem to make that an even more pressing matter.

Immediately it seems like a good opportunity for Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, or Austin Gomber to step in and get some starts at the big league level until Adam Wainwright is ready to return off the DL. That might line them up for an opportunity next season as the club has plenty of questions in their rotation.

Ascanio looks like a lottery pick type prospect. If he ever figures out how to hit well enough to deserve to play, he could become an Adeiny Hecchavaria type of shortstop if he’s lucky.

Jon Doble has been writing about the St. Louis Cardinals since 2010. You can follow him on Twitter at @JonDobleRBD, find him as R27 at RedbirdTalk.com and you can hear him co-host The UCB Podcast every fourth Wednesday night of the month. Redbird Dugout is a member of the United Cardinal Bloggers.

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