Was Keeping Mike Leake the Best Move for the Reds?


Now that the Winter Meetings are clearly in the rear view mirror, I believe we’ve all had the chance to look back at the transactions and determine the route the Reds are taking. With the trades that sent Alfredo Simon to Detroit and Mat Latos to Miami, our beloved Redlegs appear to be set with Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake being the top three in the starting rotation. But then the question arises: Was keeping Mike Leake in a Reds uniform the best move?

To get to the answer (or maybe more importantly, your answer), we must first look at what the departed arms of Simon and Latos brought to Cincinnati.

The Reds rescued Simon of the waiver wire just prior to Opening Day in 2012. It wasn’t a popular move at the time because one player, Todd Frazier, was set to be a member of the 25-man roster. We know that’s now old news, but what Simon provided to the Reds was more than what any Reds fan could ask for.

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In his three seasons, Simon compiled a record of 24-16, and ERA of 3.16, and a WHIP of 1.212. He served in virtually every role a pitcher could have: long relief, mop-up duty, late innings, setup, starter, and he even hauled in a couple of saves as a closer. Yes, the Big Pasta became a valuable member of the Reds staff. He may not have always provided the results were wanted, but he served Reds fans well.

Latos came to Cincy via San Diego in the big four-for-one deal. The Reds sent three first round selections (Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, and Brad Boxberger) and Edinson Volquez to complete the deal. Latos also served the Reds for three seasons, amassing a record of 33-16 to go long with his ERA of 3.31 and WHIP of 1.179. What many found surprising was his success at Great American Ball Park (20-7, 3.08 ERA, 1.139 WHIP) during his tenure.

Last season was an injury marked one for Latos. His health was possibly a concern. We know Cueto has experienced injury-plagued seasons in the past and last year, Johnny was able to overcome that.

And now we ponder the question of keeping Mike Leake above Simon and Latos.

Well, we know that Leake will most likely not receive the salary of Latos. The opinions of what the Reds received from the Tigers in the Simon deal has been favorable even though Leake will gain a higher salary than Simon for 2015. Also, if Simon would remain as a starter, we know that he performed well for the first half of 2014 (12-3, 2.70 ERA, 1.046 WHIP), but floundered after the All-Star break (3-7, 4.52 ERA, 1.444 WHIP). Add that Simon had not started a game since 2011 could have led to his second half swoon.

But we have an idea what Mike Leake will provide. He does not possess a blazing fastball (90.7 MPH last season), has the ability to induce ground balls at a good rate (49.9% for his career), and totes a decent bat although 2014 wasn’t his year at the plate. For his five years in Cincinnati, he has never produced a negative fWAR (lowest is 0.8 in his rookie year of 2010). But he also has never posted a fWAR over 2.0 (1.9 last season is his highest).

In other words, Leake is consistent and dependable. In his last three seasons, he has started at least 30 games. Last season marked the first time he eclipsed 200 innings in a season, so the team can build upon that.

Having an idea of what a player can deliver will generally make keeping him on your team a much easier decision. I believe that is the case with Mike Leake. He’s not flashy, but he will provide you innings, a decent record (53-42 lifetime), a so-so ERA (3.92 for his career), and provide some value as a starter. He may not be your definition of an ideal #3 (some believe he’s a #4 or even #5), but you know there will be effort.

During and after 2015 another question will arise concerning Leake: Will the Reds keep him beyond 2015?