Update: The Cardinals are reportedly still after Mike Leake, per Chris Cotillo. Derrick Goold has indicated that both the five years and the $15 million average annual value that Leake appears to be seeking are not in the Cardinals' range. The piece below was originally published December 17, but the analysis below remains valid.
It has been a difficult offseason for John Mozeliak and the Cardinals as they try to improve their team. Mozeliak recently spoke about the outfield market after Jason Heyward and his comments indicated he was more interested in pitching at this point. The pitching market at the moment is relatively deep, but no longer contains any impact arms. As for who the Cardinals could go after, Ken Rosenthal reports that the Cardinals are a team that is interested in Mike Leake.
As far as price tag goes:
Mike Leake has talked to teams about at least a five-year deal for about $75 million in the free-agent market.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 17, 2015
Given that is the number being thrown out there, we are probably looking at a lower number unless the competition heats up. Neither the Cardinals organization nor the new guys in charge of the Dodgers are known for overreacting to a bidding war with both parties on the losing end this offseason. Our own Joe Schwarz was lukewarm on the idea of Mike Leake when he broached the topic earlier in the offseason.
Thus, given the current state of the market and the fact that no draft pick is attached (because of being trading midseason), $14 million per season is probably about right for Leake. While I realize the Cardinals have plenty of money to spend, I think it could be better utilized elsewhere as I would first take my chances with someone in-house (Tim Cooney, Tyler Lyons, Marco Gonzales) or take a flyer on one of the non-tendered starting pitchers (mainly Henderson Alvarez).
The best free-agent pitcher available at the moment is Wei-Yin Chen, and Joe Schwarz took a look at him along with Scott Kazmir recently, but we do not yet know Kazmir's market and Chen still seems to be out of the price range the Cardinals would want to pay for a lower-tier pitcher.
Fans who keep asking if #orioles might re-sign Wei-Yin Chen: Hear he's seeking 5 years, $100 mil. So....no. It's clear team has moved on— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) December 17, 2015
At this point, waiting out the market might still be the prudent course for the Cardinals. With the slow-moving outfield market and the second- and third-tier pitching market not exactly moving swiftly, there does not appear to be a lot to gain by beating the market at this point. Many teams could jump back in on outfielders and pitcher if the price drops low enough, but the teams out there aggressively spending seems to have dwindled in the last week. The Cardinals have long-preferred to keep their dealings under the radar and out of the press. While most teams on the hot stove are boiling water in a sauce pan, visible until it goes over the top, the Cardinals are the kettle, with little movement before the loud whistle signals activity. The Cardinals could very well be targeting Mike Leake, but at this point, it seems they are probably just checking the market to make sure they do not lose out on a bargain.