Cincinnati Reds: Could a Mike Leake for Homer Bailey swap work?

The Seattle Mariners are tearing it all down. Could the Cincinnati Reds take one of the M’s high-priced pitchers off their hands?

The Seattle Mariners are waving the white flag and have spent the better part of this offseason trading away players. Could the Cincinnati Reds get in on the action and bring back former starter Mike Leake? Even better, could they rid themselves of Homer Bailey in the process? The idea isn’t as far fetched as you might think.

Let’s be real here. The Reds are searching for starting pitching. As a small market team, it’s going to be very difficult to lure a big name free agent to Cincinnati. Not only are other clubs able to outbid the Reds, but the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park make pitchers leery of coming to the Queen City for fear of seeing their ERA skyrocket.

So, the best route to acquiring help for the starting rotation is through a trade. We’ve seen the New York Yankees already make a deal with the Mariners just last month when they landed coveted starter James Paxton. There’s no shortage of potential trade candidates out there. The Reds have been rumored to be in on Sonny Gray (Yankees), Corey Kluber (Indians), and Noah Syndergaard (Mets).

A trade for a player like Gray might cost the Reds a mid-level prospect. But you’d be hoping for a reclamation project, similar to Matt Harvey from 2018. Gray had a 4.90 ERA last season and is three years removed from his All-Star season with the A’s in 2015. Though the Reds should still keep their eyes on Gray, the return is questionable as best.

A trade for Kluber or Syndergaard is going to cost the Cincinnati Reds big time. To get one of these aces, the Reds would likely have to give up a top prospect like Nick Senzel, Taylor Trammell, or Hunter Greene, along with other top talent. I’m not so sure it’s worth giving up controllable assets with such high upside for one of those two starters when the Reds are not contending for a championship next season.

May I propose a trade that could make sense for everyone involved? What if the Reds traded Homer Bailey and their No. 8 prospect, second baseman Shed Long, and No. 23 prospect Tanner Rainey to the Mariners in exchange for starter Mike Leake?

A trade like this would be beneficial for both parties, as the Mariners would gain a potential replacement for their recently traded second baseman, Robinson Cano, and remove Leake’s $15-million salary from their books in 2020. The Reds would get rid of Bailey’s ridiculous $23-million salary for next season and have a competent starting pitcher to take Bailey’s place in the rotation.

Reds Get
RHP, Mike Leake
Mariners Get
RHP, Homer Bailey
2B, Shed Long
RHP, Tanner Rainey

With a trade like this, essentially the Reds would be taking on an additional $8M, but that amount is spread out over two years. Leake is owed $16M next season and $15M in 2020. Just like Homer Bailey, Leake has an option year at the end of his deal with a $5M buyout.

Shed Long is a nice prospect and has the potential to be a big success in the league, but he’s currently blocked at the big league level by Scooter Gennett, who may or may not receive an extension beyond 2019. Not to mention the Reds also have their top prospect Senzel, who’s MLB-ready, waiting in the wings available to play second base.

Homer Bailey was atrocious last year, but a change of scenery could do him well. Reds fans have grown tired of what they perceive to be an overpaid pitcher who is not fully invested in the team. I don’t know how much longer Reds fans can stomach Bailey being on the team, especially as a starting pitcher.

Is Mike Leake the ideal starter that the Cincinnati Reds are looking for? No, not exactly, but Leake gives the Reds one thing that Bailey doesn’t, durability. Over the last six seasons, Leake has started 31, 33, 30, 30, 31, and 31 games. In those six seasons, Leake has a .500 record and 3.94 ERA.

The last three seasons have not been his best, as his ERA is 4.32 with a record of 29-35. His ERA+ is 95 and his BB9 is 1.7. But hey, at least he had more than one win last season. The same cannot be said for Homer Bailey, who went 1-14 with a 6.09 ERA.

With the Mariners selling off nearly every player with the exception of Mitch Haniger, Seattle is in full rebuild mode. The Cincinnati Reds should take advantage of the M’s fire sale and see if they can secure the services of a starting pitcher while at the same time shed one of their most unproductive players.