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.

Five things about the Nationals Series

The Cardinals marked their second straight series victory against a division contending team, which provides some opportunity for excitement. They took the first two against the Nationals before being shut down by Max Scherzer while Carlos Martinez had an off night. But either way there were some pluses to take away from this series.

The Cardinals are now 39-42 and find themselves 2.5 games back in the division at the official halfway mark of the season. They will play seven games against the Marlins and the Mets before the All Star Break and seem to have a good opportunity to enter the break as a .500 ballclub.

Mejia powers Saturday’s victory

Alex Mejia hadn’t had a stellar debut on Thursday night, but he made up for that by providing all the Cardinals’ offense on Saturday. First he drove in Luke Voit with a single to center field. Then with a 1-0 lead and hearing Trevor Rosenthal was due to enter the game in the 9th, he hit a solo shot to open up the 8th inning to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

That run proved necessary as Rosenthal allowed a run, but was able to hold the lead as the Cardinals won.

The case for Grichuk

Including Saturday’s win, the Cardinals are now 11-0 when Randal Grichuk bats 4th or higher in the batting order this season. On the flip side, they are 15-23 when he starts in the back half of the lineup. That seems to even bear out in his hitting statistics.

Batting 4th or higher in the order, Grichuk is hitting .291/.314/.563 with 3 home runs, 11 RBI, and a 27.4% K rate over 11 games.

Batting 5th or lower in the order, Grichuk is hitting .201/.263/.357 with 4 home runs and 17 RBI with a 31.1% K rate over 43 games.

It’s not really new either. Cardinals were 16-7 when Grichuk started and batted 4th or higher last year, 46-42 when he batted 5th or lower.

Maybe we see a different Grichuk when he has the protection of better hitters? It’s something worth considering, I would think.

Pinch hitting Voit

Luke Voit has only started two games, but he’s still made his presence felt on this Cardinals’ squad in the week he’s been here. Since his call up on June 25th, he has made four pinch hitting appearances and gone 3-for-3 with a HBP. In two of those pinch hit appearances he scored runs.

Leake rebounds

Mike Leake threw 8 innings and allowed just a single run as he posted his best start since May 24th. Following that May 24th start, Leake’s ERA this season was 1.91, and in the six starts in between he posted a 5.15 ERA and he posted an 0-4 record in decisions. His season ERA now stands at 2.97 with one more start remaining before the All Star break. One could argue that he was deserving of an All Star nod this season, given his start and where he currently stands even after a rough June.

Molina’s hitting streak ends

Yadier Molina‘s 16 game hitting streak came to an end on Sunday night as he went 0-for-4 in the series finale. Over the course of the 16 games he hit .333/.354/.492. On the season, Molina is still struggling with a .268/.303/.412 batting line.

Five things about the Braves Series

The Cardinals completed their second series sweep of the season as they outscored the Braves 21-7 over the three games, including a 10-0 curb stomping in the series opener. At 16-14, this is the first time this season the Cardinals have been able to stay above .500 for back-to-back games.

As a result, they find themselves second in the NL Central, half a game behind the Cincinnati Reds and half a game ahead of the Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals have gone 13-5 since returning home on April 17th after getting swept in new York City.

They will head to Miami tonight for a three game set. The Marlins are 13-17 and 3rd place in the NL East. They are a team looking to get back on track as they are 3-10 over their last 13 games.

Insert “Pham-tastic” level cliche here

I’ve already seen at least two since he returned to the big leagues this weekend following the injury to Stephen Piscotty. Tommy Pham was the first guy not on the roster exiting spring training and he had hit well in Memphis to start the season, but that was nothing to the show he put on this weekend.

Pham would hit a double in his first at bat this season and then add a home run in his second. He’d wrap up the series going 6-for-12 with a double, three home runs, and five RBI, including the game winning home run in the 14th inning last night.

It was good to see him hit the ground running in his return to the big leagues. I was hopeful that he’d put together a run like he has the last few times he’s come up, but stopped short of it being a foregone conclusion given how he wrapped up 2016. With Piscotty out of the lineup, Pham is playing for an opportunity to stick once he returns.

With Piscotty and Peralta likely due for return over the next couple weeks, it will be interesting to see how long Pham and Magneuris Sierra stick around. The organization has carried an extra pitcher since Peralta went on the DL, so they could change that. Regardless, Pham has made it clear that he intends to do his part to stay.

Don’t sleep on Grichuk

Randal Grichuk hit .353 with a pair of doubles and a pair of stolen bases in this series against the Braves. He had two hits in each of the three games of the series. He’s been a big part of the Cardinals’ current run. Over the last 18 games since their return from that New York sweep, Grichuk is hitting .299/.365/.448 with 8 extra base hits in those 18 games.

The bullpen is coming around

The Cardinals bullpen may still rank 19th overall in baseball with their 4.42 ERA, but over the past two weeks, they have posted a 2.83 ERA which has been the fourth best in baseball.

It was supported by yet another dominant series by the bullpen as they allowed just 1 earned run (thanks Brett Cecil) over 13 innings of work, that’s a 0.69 ERA on a 1.15 WHIP. Kevin Siegrist and Miguel Socolovich had good appearances in the series, which is a positive step for two guys who have struggled a bit this season.

Reviews not made

Twice in yesterday’s game Mike Matheny chose not to review close plays. The first was when Magneuris Sierra was picked off first base after his first Major League hit and the second was a Randal Grichuk attempted steal of third base. In both cases, at least the radio broadcast crew and Twitter seemed to think there was something worth reviewing there.

The Cardinals had the game seemingly firmly in hand with a 4-0 lead, but it makes me wonder if Matheny would have handled that differently had it been a closer game. If he’s letting off the gas because he’s leading by a few runs, that’s a problem. Hopefully he learned his lesson as that four run lead was erased by the Braves just a few innings later.

Four game winners

Lance Lynn and Mike Leake both picked up a win in the series as they won their fourth game of the season in their sixth start. That is the most wins in baseball among pitchers who have started six games. All four pitchers who have won five games this season have seven starts. Lynn will get his first crack at that fifth win Wednesday night against the Marlins in the series finale.

Beyond wins, Leake has been among the leaders in ERA this season, but thanks to his first home run allowed this season, his ERA jumped to 1.79, which is now only good for fifth in baseball. He was otherwise dominant, allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks in 7 innings of work.

Column: Cardinals will need better pitching to win in 2017

It’s not shock statement. If the St. Louis Cardinals are going to make a run at the Cubs in 2016, they will need to get better pitching. Just a season removed from having the best pitching staff in baseball, the Cardinals stumbled to 12th in 2016 with an ERA over one run worse. That difference was a key factor in the Cardinals going from a 100 win division champion to an 86 win team that missed out on the playoffs for the first time in six years.

And it isn’t like 2015’s MLB best pitching staff had everything go their way either. The team’s ace Adam Wainwright made just four starts before an Achilles injury in April cost him most of the season. But John Lackey managed to have a career year, Jaime Garcia showed why he was worth keeping around, and everyone learned who Tim Cooney was.

The 2016 pitching staff ran into trouble before the offseason even got into gear with Lance Lynn out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Once the season started, Wainwright still wasn’t right, Garcia ran into a wall, and Michael Wacha’s stress fracture recurred.

And if that wasn’t enough, the defense struggled to consistently make outs. The Cardinals were 25th in defensive efficiency last season, a measure of how often players reach base when a ball is put into play. For reference, the Cubs were #1.

For some pitchers, like Mike Leake, that struggling defense cost him what was otherwise one of the finest seasons of his career. For others, it was just fuel on the fire of their struggles.

Improving that defense was one of John Mozeliak’s goals this winter and, for the most part, that has been accomplished.

Randal Grichuk, newcomer Dexter Fowler, and Stephen Piscotty should be a better outfield than what the Cardinals had this past season. Kolten Wong should improve the defense up the middle if he can prove himself worth playing everyday and Aledmys Diaz, who played much better once he settled in, should continue to improve. Justin Turner could have made it even better, but I digress.

The defense isn’t perfect though, the Cardinals will have either Jhonny Peralta or Jedd Gyorko at third base. Neither present a tried and true plus defender and I’m on record that I’d rather see Matt Carpenter at third everyday and Matt Adams at first base.

While the defense should shape up to be better, the pitching staff will now need to do their part in 2017 if the team intends to make a run at the playoffs, much less a World Series. There are questions in the rotation and, much like the offense last season, plenty of clutter that sets the stage for some difficult decisions. But here’s why I think positively about the rotation.

The fifth starter. The Cardinals have very much played coy with who the fifth starter will be in 2017. By all accounts it seems like it will be a three way competition for the spot, though it seems obvious who should get the opportunity.

Michael Wacha represents the path of least resistance. He struggled last year with a 5.09 ERA over 24 starts and 3 relief appearances. He would miss a month late in the season after his stress fracture returned. The organization seems uncertain what to do with Wacha as they were rumored to have included him in a trade offer early in the winter. Mozeliak indicated that they may need to reset the expectations of him being a 200 inning starter and has also hinted that they could use him in a role similar to how the Indians used Andrew Miller in the postseason. So at least the appearance of an opportunity for someone else is there.

Trevor Rosenthal has also been said to be coming to spring training preparing to start. The former closer lost his job last season due to ineffectiveness, but it was long assumed that guaranteeing him the closer’s job was part of convincing him to accept a move to the bullpen. Now removed from the role, it looks as if the organization is going to give him an opportunity to start.

Regardless of where Rosenthal pitches, his problem the last few seasons has been consistently throwing strikes. Now four seasons removed from his last start, I believe that taking him out of the bullpen, where his body has become conditioned to relief, will exponentially increase his injury risk. That transition from long-time reliever to start is what I believe effective resulted in the end of Kyle McClellan’s career.

As a result of coming from the bullpen, Rosenthal will likely need to be put on an innings limit in the rotation. And in my opinion, if you’re going to consider a pitcher with an innings limit on him, it’s clear that the guy should be Alex Reyes.

I’ve been critical of Reyes in the past as I don’t see him as great a prospect as many others do mainly because of his control issues and lack of dominance in the minors. However, he got the call last season and proved me wrong. He’s still walking batters, but has managed to be effective enough. In 5 starts for the Cardinals down the stretch when the team needed him the most, Reyes was 2–0 with a 2.20 ERA.

If Reyes does end up being the pitcher that I expect he’ll be, the Cardinals should go ahead and squeeze every ounce of effectiveness out of him now before the batters figure him out.

Lance Lynn. Lance Lynn is returning after missing last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He was reportedly ready to begin a rehab assignment in September if the option had been available to him, but the organization opted to shut him down and let him have a regular offseason to prepare for 2017. That is a positive sign for the team who will be relying on him to play a critical role in their rotation.

He has before, posting a 2.87 ERA over 379 innings of work in the two seasons prior to his surgery. Lynn will be almost 18 months removed from his surgery, which bodes well for hopes in Lynn’s performance next season. The only question will be whether he can push through a full season of work.

The guy that first comes to mind is Adam Wainwright, who had the surgery in February 2011 and returned a year later to the rotation. It took Wainwright into May and maybe even June before he looked to have a good, consistent feel for his pitches again and wasn’t a reliable starting option until the second half of the season, posting a 3.13 ERA over his final 12 starts. However, Lynn will be further removed from his surgery than Wainwright was and hopefully further along in his recovery.

Mike Leake. As I wrote last September, Mike Leake had an undercover career year last year. He posted near career bests in walks per nine, strikeouts per nine, home runs allowed per nine, line drive rates, and ground ball rates. All the fielding independent metrics represented a guy who was having one of the best seasons of his career. Instead, he had the worst.

He was probably the greatest victim of the shoddy defense behind him last season. Opponents had a .321 batting average on balls in play last season compared to a .263 just a season before and up from a .292 career average entering the year.

But because of those issues, he also stands to gain the greatest benefit from a better defense. That’s the key to Leake’s success. He’s not the kind of pitcher who will go out and dominate you, though he did a few times last season. He’s Dave Duncan’s kind of guy. A pitch to contact and let the defense make plays kind of guy. And if that defense is making the plays, Leake will have a good year.

Adam Wainwright. Adam Wainwright is perhaps the biggest enigma in the Cardinals rotation entering 2017. He will turn 36 in August and has two years remaining on his current contract. He is coming off the worst season of his career, posting a 4.62 ERA over 199 innings and an 89 ERA+. However, I think there is much to be said about the fact he missed most of the 2015 season while recovering from an Achilles injury.

Wainwright’s worst two seasons have both come the year after missing the most, if not all, of the previous season with injury. Those coming in 2012 after Tommy John and then this year. He spoke in May about discovering a large difference in his leg strength as a result of the injury and set about correcting it. After he mentioned that, he had a 2.84 ERA over his next 14 starts.

From 2013 to 2015, Wainwright posted a 2.61 ERA over almost 500 innings of work. His 142 ERA+ over that span was the fourth best in baseball among starting pitchers who threw at least 450 innings. The three pitchers ahead of him on the list are Jake Arrieta, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. That’s good company.

Even if you add 2016 to the sample, he still stays in the top-25. Lynn is 28th on that list. The next guy I’m about to talk about is 26th. Three of the top-30 pitchers in baseball? I like that.

Carlos Martinez. The only bright spot for the Cardinals’ rotation last season was Carlos Martinez. He was also the only pitcher who started more than 5 games for the big league club and provide above average results. His 3.04 ERA, 135 OPS+ and 5.4 WAR made him one of the top pitchers in baseball and the heir apparent to Wainwright for the title of “ace.”

By ERA+, Martinez was the 15th best pitcher in baseball last season. Over the previous two seasons, he’s 8th on that list, tied with David Price. And Martinez is six years younger.

Martinez may never have the outright dominance of a guy like Kershaw, but Martinez took big steps this past season to mature into the kind of pitcher you want on top of your rotation. He can beat you in multiple ways, even if he doesn’t have his best stuff. In fact, I felt there were games last season where he seemed to get some sort of sick satisfaction at intentionally not using his best stuff and still beating you. That’s a pitcher.

To me, the ace of your staff is more than just the guy who is pitching the best at any given moment or any given year. He’s the guy who is pitching well and has the track record of it too. In that fashion, the only thing standing between Martinez and being that ace — and perhaps even throwing his name into the conversation of the best pitchers in the game — is doing it again.

Mike Leake is actually having a career year

If you’re like me, I was really excited at the prospect of bringing in Mike Leake. As I wrote last winter, my expectations for Leake were high because he’s a ground ball pitcher who is coming from one of baseball’s hitter’s paradises to one of the most pitcher friendly ballparks in the league. That should have meant the potential for a career year.

And he’s had it. The results just haven’t shown it.

When you look beyond his ERA, here are some fun facts about Leake’s 2016 season so far:

  • Best BB/9 in the league
  • 2nd best K/9 of his career
  • Best HR/9 of his career
  • 3rd best line drive rate of his career
  • Best ground ball rate of his career.

He has the lowest FIP of his career, better than when he had a 3.37 ERA in 2013 for the Reds. He has the second lowest xFIP of his career (behind 2011). He has the third lowest SIERA of his career (behind 2014 and 2011).

Those are the metrics of a guy having one of the best seasons of his career. Instead, he is enduring the worst.

He has been the greatest victim of the Cardinals’ shoddy defense this season. Opponents are hitting ground balls against him at a career high rate this year and they aren’t being fielded like they need to. His 10.2 H/9 rate is one of the worst of his career.

Just a recent example, last night, Leake faced 22 batters over 4.1 innings of work. Eight of those batters hit a ground ball. Four of those ground balls were hits, good for a .500 batting average. For reference, the league typically bats around .240 on ground balls. Two of those ground ball hits scored a run.

So the difference between the Mike Leake we hoped to get and the Mike Leake we are getting is probably about one play not being made per game.

As I was looking at Leake, I decided to check his performance by shortstop. If you’ve read Redbird Dugout for awhile, I did one several years ago looking at Jake Westbrook after he signed an extension with the Cardinals and there was a marked difference between his performances with and without a good defensive shortstop behind him.

For Leake, we see those same trends, but the distinction isn’t as great as I was hoping to see.

Greg Garcia – 2.96 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 24.1 IP
Aledmys Diaz – 4.47 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 114.2 IP
Jhonny Peralta – 8.18 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 11.0 IP
Jedd Gyorko – 8.31 ERA, 2.31 WHIP, 4.1 IP

There are small sample sizes here because Diaz has really been the everyday shortstop since the second week of the season until his injury, but I think we can still see the importance of a shortstop’s ability in those numbers.

The difference in WHIP from Garcia and Diaz to Peralta and Gyorko is large.

I think the fact that Leake’s WHIP is a little better with Diaz behind him, but the ERA is 1.5 runs better with Garcia tells a story there too.

Everything short of the actual results tells me that Mike Leake has had a very good season on the mound for the Cardinals. This is in contrast to a guy like Adam Wainwright, who has generally pitched poorly and gotten bad results.

Unfortunately, as I often say, the results matter most, but it should give us hope for this deal going forward. Give him a good defense behind him and those results should get back in line with expectations.

Adding Leake shores up rotation

John Mozeliak finally got someone to take his money. And while Mike Leake certainly isn’t David Price, he will do the trick. With the deal happening quickly today, the Cardinals introduced their first Major League free agent acquisition in an afternoon press conference at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals and Leake agreed to a 5 year, $80 million deal that has a mutual option for 2021 that would make the contract worth as much as $94 million, according to reports. That deal makes the largest deal that the franchise has given out to a player who had never played for the franchise before.

Leake’s new deal will also give him full no trade protection, so he will be in St. Louis through at least the 2020 season. He also now has the longest contract on the Cardinals. If there is a downside to this deal for St. Louis, it is the no trade clause. However, it can be seen as a calculated signal from an organization that intends to compete over the life of the deal. After all, contending teams don’t trade away MLB talent anyway, and the Cardinals haven’t had a losing season while the four digit year has started with a two.

Leake turned 28 last month and posted a 3.70 ERA and 11-10 record over 30 starts and 192 innings between the Cincinnati Reds and the San Francisco Giants. After spending the previous five and a half years in Cincinnati, Leake was dealt in July to the Giants. Leake posted a 3.87 ERA with a 62-47 record over his time with the Cardinals’ NL Central rivals.

There are a number of reasons that this deal is good for the Cardinals.

First, Jason Heyward is 1-for-14 against him. Checkmate, Mr. Heyward.

Second, he had a 3.87 career ERA in Cincinnati while playing half of his games in the very hitter friendly Great American Ballpark. His numbers bear that out too, showing a 4.28 ERA in GABP and 3.48 ERA on the road, including a 2.91 ERA on the road last season. With my unscientific projection model, I think you can easily knock half a run off that career ERA to set your expectation. I believe he’ll win 13-15 games with a 3.30 ERA this year.

Third, he is a workhorse. Over the past four seasons, Leake has started at least 30 games in each and has thrown the 17th most innings of any pitcher in baseball. Over the past three seasons, he’s averaged just shy of 200 innings as well. When Lance Lynn’s 200 innings hit the disabled list in November, the Cardinals had to find a way to fill those effectively and Leake has shown he is more than capable of delivering them.

Fourth, I think about the kind of pitcher that Mike Leake is. He’s a guy who truly knows how to pitch and doesn’t rely on cruising a fastball by the batter to get outs. There’s a lot there that reminds me of Kyle Lohse who, when healthy, was excellent for St. Louis.

There are some differences though. Most notably that Leake does a better job of putting the ball on the ground. Plus, you can count on Busch Stadium turning some of those home runs into fly ball outs. They’ve both got some facial hair too.

Fifth, it’s a great price tag. Yeah, $16 million per year in average annual value does sound like a lot for someone who isn’t going to be an elite level pitcher, but considering Jeff Samardzija got $18 million per year from the Giants just a month or so ago, it’s a good deal. On the whole too, Leake has been better than Samardzija too. Generally, Samardzija may seem to have more upside, courtesy of his 2014 season, but he has been heavily inconsistent while Leake has been the model of consistency.

Sixth, Leake will be 28 for all of next season. He’ll be a free agent after the 2020 season and will turn 33 years old following that season. So the Cardinals are getting the widely perceived “peak years” from Leake in this deal. That’ll be great, especially with a pitcher who pitches rather than just throwing the ball as hard as possible (looking at you Lance Lynn).

Once you factor all those things together, I believe Leake will perform much better than people expect him to. I tweeted earlier this winter that Leake was probably going to be the best value addition on the market just because he was best positioned to outperform his contract.

The main objections I’ve seen today about the deal is that he isn’t an ace caliber pitcher like Price and that Tim Cooney could probably pitch just as well.

On the first point, I agree. Mike Leake is not and will probably never be a staff ace. But that’s not what the Cardinals need. In a rotation that features Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez, another ace is a luxury item. What the Cardinals really needed was someone who could go out there, be relied on to take the ball every five days, and be penciled in for 200 innings. He can do all of this. And for half the price of David Price.

To the second point, I also agree. Tim Cooney is probably capable of pitching just as well as Leake is. While I was never high on Cooney as a prospect, after seeing him pitch in St. Louis last summer and get better every time he took the mound, I’ve become a big fan. Unfortunately, you have to look at the bigger puzzle.

If Jaime Garcia could be depended on to make 32 starts, I believe you can take the risk on Cooney being your fifth starter because you’re more willing to gamble on the next man up role. But that isn’t the case and the Cardinals have a history of getting lots of use out of the next man up by having a starting rotation injury in April or May every year. You want Cooney in that next man up role.

Because if Cooney is pitching every five days in St. Louis and Garcia goes to the disabled list, who steps up? Who is the next man up? Is it Marco Gonzales who spent a great deal of time on the disabled list last year? Is it Alex Reyes (maybe if he didn’t get caught smoking marijuana again)? I think if those guys are healthy, it’s a very different decision for John Mozeliak.

Being able to let Leake pitch without an innings limit will be a big positive for the Cardinals over a guy like Cooney or Tyler Lyons. The Cardinals needed to bring in a pitcher. David Price would have been nice, but Leake may be the best value on the market.

The only downside to this deal that I can see is that he’s going to wear the #8. A pitcher in a single-digit jersey? That’s just not right. It’s unnatural. If I were Mozeliak, I’d have voided the contract right then and there.