The Giants reportedly have always coveted Mike Leake, a big reason why they made a strong push for him this past July non-waiver trade deadline.
Leake was a disappointment, to say the least in his time in Giants orange and black. In nine starts since the trade, the right hander went 2-5 with a 4.07 ERA in 55 1/3 innings, striking out just 29 while walking 15. Now Leake is a free agent, and the Giants are reportedly interested in bringing him back to fill in #3 spot of the rotation in addition to adding a co-ace such as Zack Greinke or David Price.
One potential target to fill the co-ace vacancy in San Francisco is off the board. Jordan Zimmermann has reportedly agreed to terms on a five year $110 million deal with the Detroit Tigers. Zimmermann becomes the first top free agent to sign a contract this offseason, and the dominoes will surely begin to fall in what has been a fairly quiet offseason.
Zimmermann would have been a good fit in San Francisco, but apparently was not willing to wait around for Price and Greinke to sign before picking his new home. Folks like Leake and Jeff Samardzija, however, may be in the group of pitchers who will wait for the top two pitchers to sign, maximizing on their demand from teams who lost out on either Price or Greinke.
But is Leake worth an investment? From the Giants standpoint, one can argue yes. Their pitching was lackluster outside of Madison Bumgarner and a strong first half from rookie Chris Heston. As the Giants look to get younger, Leake, who is only 28, makes for a good fit. But at what cost?
We have seen in recent years the ridiculous contracts baseball players have been signing, and it is only going to get higher. Reports are indicating Leake is looking to seek out a five year $75-80 million contract. Is he worth that kind of money? At the way he market has developed recently, then perhaps yes, Leake is worth that money.
Should the Giants give Leake that money? No.
Not when you have internal options that can duplicate or exceed Leake’s production. The Giants have quite a few soft tossing right handed pitchers in their high minor league farm system, such as Clayton Blackburn, that look to be ready for the big leagues.
Assuming the Giants are able to sign a top pitcher like Greinke or Price, that would leave just one spot available in a rotation that also consists of Bumgarner, Matt Cain, and Jake Peavy. Rookie Chris Heston, who had a strong first half but faltered down the stretch with fatigue, ought to get another shot now that he has become accustom to the rigorous and long season.
Instead of investing $15 million in another pitcher, perhaps the Giants ought to consider letting Blackburn and Heston battle it out for the number five spot in the rotation for less than a million dollars in 2016. And, if neither pan out, the Giants can alternatively look at the trade route come July.
However it seems Evans is focus on adding two pitchers, one top and one second tier in a pitching rich market. Next years free agent crop does not possess the same deep and talented pitching pool than this years free agent market does. And given the uncertainty in Peavy and Cain in terms of health and production, Evans surely wants to assure the team and fan base that he did his best to cover any questions around the pitching rotation.
But investing $15 million/year in Leake might hinder the Giants in the longterm. Signing a Greinke/Price might cost the Giants upwards of $25-$30 million. Add that to Peavy’s $12 million Cain’s $20 million. While Bumgarner is only owed $9.75 this coming year, he’ll get more expensive and once his team friendly five year contract is over, will likely command a kings ransom as he approaches free agency at age 30.
The Giants, if they are indeed not sold on Heston/Blackburn, can look at the discounted bin for a few short term contracts.
Tim Lincecum, the long time Giants who had hip surgery, is expected to throw for teams in January. If his velocity goes back to the low to mid 90’s, then he will surely be a good bet on a one year deal to reestablish value and enter the market in 2016-2017.
Additionally, Doug Fister, who is coming off a miserable season in which he was eventually put in the bullpen, could be had on a year deal. Pitching in the friendly confinements of AT&T park may suit well for Fister as he looks to reestablish his value as a dominant ground ball pitcher.
Only time will tell, as the market for Leake has yet to develop. One thing is for sure, Leake is looking to maximize on his value and hope for a wealthy contract. And he deserves it. But at that asking price, the Giants may want to be weary if it is worth entering a bidding war for someone that is already replaceable internally.
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