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Mariners acquire noted arms-haver Cardinals SP Mike Leake, cash, & International $$$ for Rayder Ascanio

One team’s trash is another team’s ace. We’re another team.

Washington Nationals v St Louis Cardinals
Underrated skill: he can start all five games
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

It’s Wednesday morning, and like many people Jerry Dipoto woke up with a plan. Like a smaller percentage of those people, Jerry hopped on the treadmill and enacted that plan.

Mike Leake is coming to Seattle. He waived his no-trade clause to come to Seattle, which is neat in the sense that we’re not really used to that, I suppose. What trading Leake is to the Cardinals is a salary dump. His contract over the next four years is not crippling, but St. Louis is flush with pitching depth. They comfortably moved a guy who has been a quintessential No. 4 starter his entire career.

Baseball Reference

Starting with the money is important, because in terms of cost, that is largely what it took to acquire Leake. Rayder Ascanio is a strong defender at SS/2B, but his bat has lagged behind an MLB trajectory, posting a 79 wRC+ in Modesto with a .223/.304/.352 line this year at age 21. He’s the organization’s closest to “ready” middle infield prospect, but considering he’s in High-A, that’s not saying much. Guys like Ascanio can often make the MLB, and his work in Spring Training with the club may have had him on fans’ radars more than most, but it’s unlikely a 5-11, 155 lb shortstop will burn the M’s terribly.

So the money it is, and the money it will be. An extra $750,000 of international signing space is certainly nice for the low-ceiling farm, considering two of the Mariners top 20 prospects are kids signed this year as international amateurs. The most important question remains, however: how much of the contract will St. Louis eat?

As for the pitcher himself, Leake is 29 years old and has posted an FIP between 3.85 and 4.25 in six of his eight seasons. He’s made 26+ starts every year after his rookie season in 2011. Leake is famous for being the first starting pitcher to jump straight to the majors since Jim Abbott in 1989, and while he’s never reached great ceilings, he’s been about as consistent as an MLB player can be. Eight seasons, averaging around 1.8 WAR per year. If Leake remains around that contribution level, it’s useful for the Mariners, obviously, but still an overpay based on his salary. That said, Leake is instantly the best starting pitcher on the Mariners right now. It’s a grim state of affairs, but it’s true.

He’s a heavy groundball pitcher, and has given up 19 homers in 154.0 IP. The Mariners have given up 31 dingers in the first inning this year (133.0 IP). His velocity is in line with his career numbers (90-92 FB, 88-90 cutter, 80-82 slider, and a curve and change). Strikeout pitchers are coveted and unsurprisingly Leake is not a man to generate whiffs, with just an 8.3% SwStr%. Leake provides the Mariners with a reasonable pitcher to run out every five days for the rest of the year, and likely for the next few seasons as well. My greatest worry is if his contract will limit the Mariners in pursuit of other options moving forward.

UPDATE (10:15 AM): (also switched out the confusing Drayer tweet at the top)

That’s pretty solid.