The Arizona Diamondbacks declined former SF Giants hurler Mike Leake‘s $18 million option for 2021 thereby making him a free agent.
Mike Leake opted out of the 2020 season, so the decision to buy out the remaining year of his contract is not surprising. Given this, the former SF Giants righty could have a tough time landing a guaranteed deal in free agency.
Leake was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Reds out of Arizona State University in the first round of the 2009 draft. After just 19.2 professional innings under his belt, the right-hander made the Reds major league roster out of Spring Training in 2010.
He would pitch for the Reds in part of the next six seasons while registering a 62-47 overall record and a 3.87 ERA (4.18 FIP). Leake has never missed many bats as he has posted a 16 percent strikeout rate in his ten-year career, but he has thrived at avoiding loud contact.
Throughout his career, he has induced a groundball in 50.4 percent of his batted ball events to go along with a stout 1.77 groundball-to-flyball ratio.
The Giants brought him in to give them stability at the back-end of the rotation as they made a playoff push. However, he struggled to the tune of a 4.07 ERA (4.83 FIP) while landing on the injured list for the first time in his career. The Giants finished the year with an 84-78 record, which was good for second place in the NL West.
He became a free agent following that season. The SF Giants expressed interest in a reunion, but opted for Jeff Samardzija (five years, $95 million) and Johnny Cueto (six years, $130 million) instead.
This worked out in Leake’s favor as he scored a five-year, $80 million pact with the St. Louis Cardinals. Though Leake would not finish the deal with the Cardinals as he was traded to the Seattle Mariners, and then the Arizona Diamondbacks.
During the life of that contract, the 32-year-old posted a 41-46 record with a 4.31 ERA (4.28 FIP) while proving that he can be a reliable, back-end arm.
That said, Leake will have a difficult time landing a guaranteed deal in free agency after missing all of the 2020 season. Despite this, Leake has always been an innings-eater while generating groundballs at a high rate. These two factors should help him land back on his feet, especially with a team that needs a lot of rotation depth (Hello, Giants).
While it has been five years since the Giants traded for Leake, it remains a polarizing move in recent memory as Adam Duvall became an All-Star outfielder with the Reds. The fun part about Giants history is looking up the last time they drafted ad developed an All-Star outfielder. You have to dig deep into those history books, folks.