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.
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.
It is a high price to pay: MLBTR reported that Mella was ranked the Giants #1 prospect in mid-season lists by MLB.com 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.
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.