Sep 30, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Mike Leake (13) high fives team mates after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
A bit of bad timing and worse luck has led to a mediocre first impression from right-handed pitcher Mike Leake. Since being traded to the San Francisco Giants on July 30th in an effort to propel past the Dodgers in the NL West, Leake has been anything but consistent.
On Wednesday night, Leake showed just how dominating he can be as exhibited by his 2-hit shutout against the Dodgers. With that being said, I’m sure that Adrian Gonzalez and company were not exactly in the right mindset after celebrating their third straight NL West championship the previous night. Nevertheless, anybody who can allow just two hits and five total base runners to big-league hitters must be doing something right.
With so many question marks heading into the off-season, what will the San Francisco front-office to decide to do with the San Diego-native? Should they give him the contract he so desires or look elsewhere?
Personally, I have not been impressed by Leake. In his previous eight starts before the Wednesday, Leake was just 2-6, posted a 4.86 ERA, and had an opposing batting average of .275. All three of these categories were career highs for Leake (excluding his rookie campaign). Many can blame his poor record on the low amount of run-support by Giants hitters, but there is no mistaking his 2.33 K/BB ratio and the fact that in those eight games, he had just four quality starts.
Sep 30, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Mike Leake (13) throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the ninth inning at AT&T Park. The San Francisco Giants defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
For a guy that is looking for a contract in the range of $50-70 million, these numbers just don’t cut it for me. In fact, such upcoming free agent pitchers with better numbers and lower asking prices include Ian Kennedy (9-15, 4.28 ERA, 1 year/$9.85 million), Dan Haren (10-9, 3.67 ERA, 2 year/$20 million) , and even Ryan Vogelsong (9-11, 4.67 ERA, 1 year/$ million).
On the other hand, although he may not have won over all the Giants faithful, maybe we set the standards too high. I mean it’s understandable after having guys like Cody Ross and Marco Scutaro come over and be heroes right away. Consequently, I am convinced that Leake is in fact a better pitcher than he has displayed.
Along with this, the players and coaches seem to like the fire and aggressiveness Leake brings to the table and would love to see him back next year.
“”I certainly like him,” Bochy said in an interview with Alex Pavolic of CSN Bay Area. “I like the way he competes, I like his stuff. I’ve known him a long time. You don’t know what’s going to happen, but if you’re asking me, sure, who wouldn’t want a Mike Leake?”
By all means, I strongly believe that the Giants’ priority this offseason is to get some youth in their rotation. This means they need to finally let go of their postseason heroes, like Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong, and begin a new era for the pitchers. Just take a look at some of the staff: Matt Cain: 31 years-old, Jake Peavy: 34, Vogelsong: 38, Tim Hudson: 40. With Hudson retiring and contracts expiring, now is the ideal time to rebuild the rotation.
How can they accomplish this?
San Francisco has reported to have around $40 million to spend for free agents this year, which is enough to land a top-tier free agent and Leake. The Giants are flat going to be desperate for pitching this off-season, but it is a good problem to have as starters like David Price, Johnny Cueto, and Jordan Zimmermann are all on the market.
If San Francisco can lock in the 28-year-old Leake for around a 4-year/$50 million contract, this will allow them to offer Price, Cueto, or Zimmermann the money they desire to give the Giants a dominating 1-2 punch with Bumgarner leading the way.
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To answer the question of whether the Giants should sign Leake, the answer is yes–not because he has proven to be a fit on the team, not because he is the only decent pitcher on the market, and certainly not because he has dazzled in his time with San Francisco. Instead, the Giants need to sign Leake because they are desperate and Leake will give them stability for years to come in a rotation that is passed their expiration date.
The truth is that Leake will never be the ace of a rotation or win any Cy Young awards, but what he will do is pitch to contact, rarely spend any time on the DL, and be a great third starter behind the two-headed monster of Bumgarner and, preferably, David Price or Jordan Zimmermann.
These three guys will arguably give the Giants one of the best rotations in the league, and, most importantly, will allow them to evenly match up with their competition in the NL West–Clayton Kershaw, Zack Grienke, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.