Friday, July 31, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Trade for Mike Leake

Breaking news:  the Giants have traded for SP Mike Leake from the Reds, a player who they have coveted for a long time.  Extra Baggs has an account:

Leake, 27, was 9-5 with a 3.56 ERA in 21 starts for the Reds – numbers that the Giants did plenty to inflate when they scored nine runs against him on May 16. He is a ground ball machine whose strike-throwing ways should translate extremely well to AT&T Park. He’s also a perennial Gold Glove candidate and his hitting prowess will give even Madison Bumgarner a run for his money. 
The Giants have long coveted Leake, going back to when the San Diego native was the eighth overall pick in the 2009 draft out of Arizona State. Giants scout Doug Mapson, who signed Greg Maddux back when he worked for the Cubs, said he has only written a Maddux comparison once to another amateur player. It was Leake. 
Leake also knows Giants manager Bruce Bochy because he played with the manager’s son, Brett, along with Stephen Strasburg, on a travel ball team in his youth. Leake even grew up a Giants fan because of his father, whose favorite player is Willie Mays. All of this might be a factor after the season, since Leake is a free agent and the Giants planned on pursuing him over the winter even if they didn’t acquire him via trade. Now they get two months to make an attractive case while employing his services as they attempt to defend their World Series title.
The Giants traded two prospects:  corner infielder Adam Duvall and RHP Keury Mella.  It is expected to be the only deal done before the trading deadline (Morse was just DFAed by the Dodgers, so he'll be available in 10 days for free).  The Giants have not announced any other personnel moves other than that Tim Hudson will not be in the rotation now.

ogc thoughts

The Giants finally land Leake.  Baggarly has been reporting on the Giants interest in Leake for a long while now.  The Giants liked him but liked Wheeler more in that draft (I saw someone question this).  In any draft, there are a lot of prospects that you covet, but when it's time for you to make your pick, you can only pick one.

I wish I was as brave as Baggarly to predict that the Giants were going to go for Leake.  I had thought about all the bread crumbs that he had noted in prior articles during this trade deadline period, but I was more enamored with getting Hamels or Price instead.   But he made the most sense in terms of what we could reasonably expect to get, because there are other teams with more top prospects to throw around than we did.

The Giants were reportedly pursuing both Hamels and Price, but the Rangers and Blue Jays won those battles.  The Giants reportedly were close enough that Hamels waived his no-trade clause for the Giants.  The Giants reportedly offered Susac, Beede, and two other prospects, but that wasn't good enough.  But the Reds were happy enough with Mella and Duvall.

Trade Costs

It is a high price to pay:  MLBTR reported that Mella was ranked the Giants #1 prospect in mid-season lists by and Law, and #2 by BA.  However, he's still only in Advanced A, and the opinions on his potential vary greatly, and thus, while he has shiny mid-90's heat that prospect hounds love and three potential plus pitches, there are also those who think he's only a future reliever.  Still, a #1 prospect is a high price to pay for anyone.  Plus, we threw in a pretty good homerun hitting prospect, but the question with Duvall was whether he'll ever hit well enough to get those homers as part of his package, you have to make good contact to get hits and then get the homers.  So this was a high price in terms of what the Giants gave up.

And yet not that high if the Giants succeed in signing Leake to a long term contract after the season.  Leake is a very good pitcher, and if the Giants can sign him, Mella and Duvall will be a small price, much like the Pence trade.

While not a fait accompli, the Giants generally pay fair market value or more for the players they want to keep, so the main question then becomes for Leake is whether he wants to stay here or look for greener pastures.   And the Giants plan on using their close quarters with him now to convince him to stay, as they stated that they intend to pursue him this off-season.  And being only 28 YO for next season, even a 5 year contract would cover his 28-32 YO seasons, which are the peak years of reliability for pitchers.

At minimum, even though he grew up in the land of the Padres, his dad taught him properly and he grew up a Giants fan, much like Maxwell, because both dads were Willie Mays fans.  Baggs has also noted that Leake would relish wearing the Giants uni.  Lastly, I took a look at one of his tweets thanking the Reds, and noticed that he had already updated his picture to have a Giants uniform on him.  And he should be relatively reasonable to sign, probably a four year contract with a team option for the fifth season that vests if he pitches to a certain IP level, probably in the $50-70M range would be my initial guess.  So I would be surprised if he don't re-sign with the club afterward, but odder things have happened before, so we'll see.


Nothing has been reported regarding what will happen to Hudson nor how Leake would fit onto the 25 roster (there is already space on the 40 man roster due to the Arias DFA).  Evans reported that he has spoken to Hudson about taking a relief role, and he has basically said in recent interviews that he's willing to do whatever necessary for his team to win, even if it means taking him out of the rotation.

The problem is that the bullpen was pretty full to begin with.  They are carrying the full 13 pitchers they have been carrying all season long now.  Only Heston and Strickland have options, but neither should be optioned.

The only move that makes sense to me right now just in terms of lack of production is if the Giants DFA Maxwell in order to bring Leake onto the team.  He has not really hit all that well since April.  It would make the bench a very slim 3 position players, but Bumgarner, Heston, and Leake are OK hitters, and could pinch hit in games if necessary.

I had also noted in a previous post that perhaps the Giants might trade away Vogelsong, as he has value as a very capable starter who had a 3.48 ERA in the 15 starts he had once he was placed securely into the rotation (and not counting the starts he had when he was an emergency starter).   He's not likely to return to the team next season, as Lincecum might take over his role next season (I still have hopes of having him return as a super-utility reliever, pitching basically in any situation needed) and, in any case, this role was specific for this season, with Cain and Hudson having issues to deal with.

And this would work with trading anybody in the pitching staff, not just Vogelsong.  I would have to think that Petit could be on the trading block, due to his down season so far.   And as much as the Core Four has meant to the team, they are getting old and could be traded as well, maybe they think Vogie can replace someone.  But my gut says Vogelsong is the most likely, given his Molina-like situation:  vet expected to sign elsewhere returns anyway, but then his spot is taken by mid-season.

Another way is if the Giants decide to DL someone.  As fate would have it, I was writing up a post regarding the Giants August gauntlet of games (which they go through each season), and determined that Pagan has not been hitting well since he hurt his finger in early May, and he has not hit for much since, even with the rest from the All Star break.  They could DL him in order to open up a spot, while the Giants figure out how to remove one pitcher from the roster in the next few days, it would buy some time, plus start to allow Pagan to heal his finger and hopefully get better.  This could work for anyone who might be working on healing from some injury, as well.

Nice Upgrade

The way the Giants sold it, Leake was part of the group of pitchers they were pursuing to upgrade their rotation.  And Leake upgrades the rotation in a number of ways.  First, he's an innings eater, he's been averaging 6.5 IP per start this season, and 7.2 IP in the month of July.   That will help save our bullpen, which has been run ragged this season so far.  Second, he has an 3.54 ERA over the last three seasons, including this season, which is much better than what Hudson was throwing up so far this season.

And his numbers might get even better with the Giants.  His prior home park was the homeriffic Great American Ballpark that the Reds play in.  He had a 4.31 ERA there, but a very good 3.43 ERA on the road, which is where he'll mostly be pitching at with the Giants this season.   In addition, he will now be caught by Buster Posey, who has been getting a lot of plaudits for his catching framing, and that should help improve both his strikeout rate as well as lower his ERA.  Lots of factors suggesting that he can be a great addition to the rotation.

He does not strike out a lot of batters:  5.9 K/9 this season, 6.2 K/9 over past three, 6.1 K/9 in his career.   His key has been his ability to not walk that many batters either, his K/BB has been around the high 2's to low 3's, which is pretty good in spite of his poor strikeout rate.  He puts a lot of balls into play, and that works in a park like AT&T and a good defensive team like the Giants.

Overall, he looks like he can provide a performance on par with what Hudson put in last season for us, a mid-3 ERA, with low K/9 but lower BB/9 for a good K/BB ratio.  In 21 starts, he had 10 DOM starts and only 3 DIS (48% DOM/14% DIS), which is good but not great, but still way better than what Hudson had done so far this season.

I'm pretty excited about adding Leake to the rotation.  The rotation now includes Cain, Peavy, Bumgarner, Heston, plus Leake.  It looks like Heston will move up a day to pitch on Saturday, which would have been Hudson's turn in the rotation, with Leake taking his normal 5 day rest start on Sunday.   This helps to counter all the moves the Dodgers have made to add two starters, Latos and Wood to their rotation.

I still like the Giants chances of winning the trophy again.  As I noted in the pre-season, I thought the team was capable of running away with the NL West, Dodgers or no Dodgers.  Their record since Pence returned is indicative of the strength of the ball club when everyone is healthy.  However, they have not been all mostly healthy until recent days when Aoki returned to the lineup.  And with Leake improving our rotation, that can only help the team reach the heights that I think they can reach.

Go Giants!


  1. At Dr B's I pointed out that only 3 in 10 "Top-10" prospects make it to the show. So I chose MLB's 2011 prospect list because it was the oldest.

    Three in ten made it to any significant time so far: Adrihanza, Sanchez, Gillespie. The other seven, including Gary Brown (#1 in 2011 & 2012) have either failed, are stuck in the minors, or are completely out the farm club system.

    If you go to 2012 -- Panik is an All Star. The rest are perhaps even worse off than 2011's crew. 2013 -- Crick is #1, Kickham #3. Not much success there. Panik the future All-Star is still in the Top-10. 2014 -- Nobody in the Top-10 has made to the show with Duffy at #17 and Strickland at #13 are the cream of that Top-20 ranking.

    So, yeah, he was #1. And my reaction is 'so?' I don't put a lot of faith in prospect rankings, especially for a guy who hasn't even made to AA, because I know most of them are going to flat-out fail...

    1. Thanks for your comment.

      Yeah, that sounds about right with the 3 of 10. El Lefty Malo noted long ago someone else's comment that in any system at any time, on average, you got two future starters and two valuable bench/relief players, so that fits in with what you say as well, including the one outlier who pops up for some teams (for many years, it wasn't the Giants though).

      I view prospects more like financial options, where while there is little value now, based on expected appreciation, you expect your option to be in the money. Mella was one such option, and he was considered a top option based on rankings, and thus a high price to pay for a rental.

      But you and I are really not that far apart. Long ago I got the scorn of a lot of Giants fans to saying that the Giants punting of the draft pick for Michael Tucker is a rational and OK move because the vast majority of 29th picks never become a good player, roughly 10% (based on my draft study, a link to which is on the side somewhere, look for crapshoot). Which is the same notion as you are stating regarding Mella: any particular random prospect is not very likely to amount to anything.

      So I agree, there is a lot of ways that Mella can go sideways. I noted above both that he's only in Advanced A and that some prospect followers don't even think he's going to be a starter. And while he has potential for three plus pitches, he's not there yet, and may never get there. I would also add that Sabean and gang has been pretty good during his reign in not trading away a good pitcher (Wheeler has been an average pitcher so far, and now injured, and Liriano, while a good pitcher when healthy, hasn't always been healthy, for the most part).

      I also don't put much faith in rankings, so again, alike. Particularly Giants rankings, as the Giants go their own way and the rest of baseball does not seem to like or appreciate that. Almost every draft year, there will be at least one pick that has the rest of baseball scratching their head and wondering what the heck are the Giants doing. Sanchez, Sandoval, Romo, Belt, Crawford, Panik, Duffy, Heston all were/are good major leaguers, providing good production, and yet were not thought of much by the prospect followers at some point while under Giants control. Belt everybody jumped on once he started hitting the snot out of the ball, but it was the Giants who drafted him in the 5th round who saw something in an underpowered firstbaseman who used to be a pitcher. Everyone was scratching their heads when he was selected, nobody remembers that they didn't think much of him when the Giants drafted him, even Law, who has made it his business to bad mouth the Giants over their handling of Belt, he didn't talk about the Giants steal when they drafted Belt.

      So, yeah, you and I are very alike.

  2. From BP:

    Leake is an excellent fit for the Giants’ pitching philosophy in that he can use and command all five pitches, and can get by when one or two of them aren’t working.

    • Leake - sinker, cutter, curve, change, slider,
    • Heston - sinker, four-seamer, curve, change, slider
    • Hudson - sinker, four-seamer, curve, change, cutter
    • Peavy - sinker, four-seamer, curve, change, cutter

    This isn’t by accident. The Giants and Righetti prefer pitchers who are comfortable mixing their pitches. A lot.

    Leake is a good, durable, athlete who approaches hitters the way the Giants want their pitchers to.

    btw...hate to say it, but if a player can be dropped off the 25 while on the DL, Timmy's the most likely candidate. Time to say goodbye....

    1. Hey El, long time no see, thanks for the comment! And for the BP snippet!

      Timmy is on the 40-man, so he is not the guy to go to make space on the 25-man. Though, brilliant minds and all that, I was wondering at first, when first writing, before I counted and realized that we had 40-man roster spots open, if the Giants might just push him out to the 60-day DL, which would end his season probably, but allow them to place Leake on the 40. But then I counted and it wasn't needed.

      Never can say goodbye, no no no no...

      I don't know, while the writing appears to be on the wall, screaming really, with the bullpen crunch and all that (clearly, his SP days are over), there is something in my gut that says that the Giants will keep Lincecum around. Part of that is that I think he still wants to be in the majors, part of that is that I think nobody will want him except maybe the Giants. Minor league contract perhaps?

      I mean, the guy seems to have no ego, but he does love the game. And as good as Petit was last two seasons, he's been pretty meh this season, so maybe Tim and Petit end up battling for the long relief spot in the rotation. And Tim might win it, he's been good in short spurts, and maybe he needed two years to get back the mechanics his father taught him (I mean, his dad in his 50's was throwing high 80's heat, so why can't Timmy with enough rest and continued conditioning?). And Timmy has stuff that don't go away, even with his diminished velocity, he was still striking out people, more than his velocity would suggest.

      A guy can dream, no?

      Thanks again.

  3. I believe that Affeldt has appeared twice since he came off the DL, and that he was pulled both times because he was so startlingly ineffective. He may well need August back on the DL before rosters expand in September. For the Giants to carry fourteen pitchers is not tenable, so the addition of a pitcher means the departure of a pitcher. This is the more so in that Leake typically goes deep into games, so that the bullpen will get more rest. DFA Petit, with the supposition that his role as long man now can be filled by both Vogelsong and Hudson?

    1. Thanks campanari, for your comment. Very astute, as usual, Affeldt has not been himself, so yeah, he could be a DL candidate to open up a spot for Hudson to be a reliever. But the Giants, or that is, Bochy, seems to need at least two lefties in the bullpen for him to do his magic, so while that can be done for now just to get things moving, Osich will need to be brought up at some point soon for Bochy to have his two lefty bullpen (and remember, he actually liked having three a few years back). So DLing Affeldt will buy time but not much as they will need to do something to bring Osich back up.

      Yes, they could DFA Petit. But I would think he has some value to a contender somewhere, so hence why I suggested trading him above. But perhaps I overvalue him, his K/9 is very depressed, now that I look at it, so, seeing that, I have to agree with you, DFAing Petit seems the most likely option right now if no other moves are made.

      Now Evans was on KNBR this morning and when asked about what 25-man move might happen, played coy and noted that while no deal is likely to be done today by the Giants, he noted that should they make any moves, then they will deal with the 25-man consequences. I read that to mean that the Giants are working on trading someone off the 25-man in order to open a spot for Hudson in the bullpen.

      And that's why I noted Vogelsong above and before as a trade candidate, as he was a valuable pitcher for us while in the rotation, and a good guy overall, and one would think that there is one cheap playoff contender out there who would flip a low level prospect whom the Giants are interested in, in order to add Vogelsong to their rotation and improve their rotation.

      Most people (I don't consider you most people :^) don't realize that every team struggles with their 5th starter, even the Giants, with their stability and the great pitching from 2009-2012, usually had one spot in their rotation where nobody could take and hold the spot, and so the team rotates a number of starters in there to find a good pitcher.

      Vogelsong could help stabilize another team's rotation by providing good starts where he keeps his team in the game. People undervalue that, but from my study of PQS and DOM/MID/DIS, even MID starts are valuable because the team is not out of the game as they would be in DIS starts. And Vogie, actually, this season, has been either DOM or DIS, few MID, but he has been DOM a lot more than DIS, and that is valuable to a contender who is on the edge, improving their question mark rotation slot into a a pitcher like Vogelsong. Could be the difference between contender and pretender.

      Or maybe a team is hurting. Like the Yankees, didn't they lose a starter recently? Lots of ways the Giants can play it, I think.

  4. Here is a nice analysis of Leake by a Blue Jays fan (h/t to MCC) and how he approaches pitching:

    He's savvy enough to alter how he pitches between home and on the road! Also, his velocity has been going up over his career, not down. He probably could strike out more batters, given his better velocity, but focuses more on limiting pitches per batter so that he can go deeper in games, apparently.

    I liked getting him before but like him even more after reading this.

  5. Nice post by Pavlovic on Leake:

    Sounds really good. Learned from Hudson tape, can now ask the original! Picked 13 because it's his father's favorite number. Now he can arrange to have his father meet Willie Mays, whom his father liked so much that Leake grew up a Giants fan. Interview got me excited about getting Leake, that he stepped up when it was known that he was auditioning for a playoff team.

    Time for Giants to turbo-charge ahead (not that they haven't, so OK, continue to fly ahead).

  6. Oh, should have mentioned, Hudson DLed to open up space for Leake, Heston moves up to pitch Sat against Hamels (two no-hitters this season), and Leake debuts on Sunday.

  7. Your comments on Leake's savvy and his learning from Hudson, ogc, may be particularly apposite to Leake. That's because he never had a minor-league stage of development, but moved directly from college to MLB. He has worked with only one set of coaches at a professional level, I would guess, without the experience of ripening under diverse guidance that the Giants' organization provides, its pitcher- whispering. He should have a good bit to learn from his new organization's experts, and he seems like the kind of guy who would be very susceptible to rapid, assiduous learning.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Good points! And I agree.

      Not that he isn't good now, but I particularly agree with your last statement that he would assiduously and rapidly absorb the teachings of their variety of available teachers, including Hudson, Righetti, Gardner, Tidrow, Cain, and Posey.

    2. Oh, and he might just become the next Maddux, in reference to Mapson's scouting report. According to one of the reports I read, he has pushed his velocity higher as he is approaching his prime physical condition. Add that to training he could receive with the Giants, while learning how forgiving RF can be for him against LHH, I would put nothing against him trying to reach that ideal. And maybe Huddy can get Maddux to talk with Leake too, maybe they are buddies?

  8. Really nice analysis of Leake and his pitching tendencies:

  9. Another thing I should have mentioned is that the Giants needed to make a trade for somebody. If you look at my Team Performance box on the side, the Giants are 48-55 so far in terms of the pitching achieving allowing 3 runs or less in a game.

    That's not acceptable for a team that wins generally by pitching. The team the past couple of seasons have been winning by offense, as odd as that might seem to some people, but as I've noted the past couple of seasons, their offense is actually pretty good when you got everyone healthy and producing to career norms.

    Adding in Duffy and Panik at their great production so far helps the offense be even better, then you have Crawford taking his performance up a notch as well, and once they get Aoki going and back leading off, I think the Giants offense could take another notch up, and they have been good so far.



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