Mike Leake has become the latest free-agent starting pitcher off the market, agreeing to a 5-year, $80-million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.
According to multiple media reports, the 28-year-old also gets a full no-trade clause and a mutual option sixth year for $14 million. That would make the contract worth $94 million over six years.
The righty broke into the Cincinnati Reds rotation in 2010 as a 22-year-old, and was a fixture until being traded to the San Francisco Giants at this year’s trading deadline. With a career ERA of 3.88, a WHIP of 1.271 and an ERA+ of 101, Leake is the very definition of a league-average, middle-of-the-rotation starter.
These days, that’s enough to get you $80 million over five years – the same contract that the Detroit Pistons gave to point guard Reggie Jackson to be a cornerstone player of the franchise.
Leake has averaged 1.9 WAR over the last five years, a sum that would earn him about $14 million a season at the going market rate, but he had a career-high 2.9 WAR between Cincinnati and San Francisco last season.
In a rotation that already includes Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia, Leake gives the Cardinals a consistent pitcher that doesn’t have to carry the pressure of being an ace.
It isn’t a sexy move, but it is the type of signing that good teams make to fill holes.