The Cardinals solidified their rotation yesterday, adding Mike Leake on a five-year, $80 million contract. St. Louis will enter the season with a rotation headed by Adam Wainwright with Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia, and Mike Leake following in line. If all get through the spring healthy, there will be no battle for the fifth spot in the rotation.
Tyler Lyons, out of options, cannot be sent to Triple-A without passing through waivers which means he has likely cemented himself a spot in the bullpen. Tim Cooney and Marco Gonzales, once hoping to compete for a spot in the rotation, will likely begin the season in Triple-A battling to be the next man in if they fail to make the big-league bullpen.
Much has been written about the Leake signing in the past few days. The post announcing the signing discussed the Cardinals desire for security in the rotation:
After missing out on major targets, the Cardinals forced themselves into a position to chase wins on the margins. This deal is representative of that position. On paper, Mike Leake helps the Cardinals a little bit in 2016, and that could mean the difference in making the playoffs. The cost is fair market value, but it is high and will likely never be a bargain. The Cardinals were looking to get better in the rotation, and they got better, even if just a little.
...I view it as an overpay, so Leake will likely be considered much more than a "fifth" starter. While Leake has been average to slightly above average up to this point in his career, his ability to "eat innings" is undeniable. There is unquestionable value in "eating innings, especially if the organization is keeping deeper health questions under wraps.
John Fleming discussed how much of an upgrade Leake would be over the current options.
Leake will be 32 at the end of the contract, and although arm trouble is a concern with any pitcher, there's not much reason beyond sheer blind fatalism to expect Leake is more likely than anyone else to experience it. Maybe the Cardinals expect to work the old Dave Duncan magic to give new life to a pitch-to-contact pitcher (just without Dave Duncan, not a small part of the equation). But the trick was far more impressive when it was being done for low-cost options such as Jeff Suppan. At $16 million per season, for what to this point has amounted to a #4 starter, this move just doesn't have the same upside, and may not actually represent eighty million dollars worth of improvement over the next five seasons for the Cardinals.
Red Baron weighed in as well. He did not have a problem with the signing, but felt it was a bit of a letdown.
The bottom line, for me, is this: the Cardinals have once again made a pretty smart, useful move to bolster the depth of their roster, all while allowing the top end of the club to stagnate and weaken. They refused to pay big bucks for the guy they wanted most, then paid more than half as much for a pitcher probably worth less than half as much.
Ben Godar offered a light defense of the signing:
Beyond this season, there is the question of whether or not Leake will continue to be valuable for the duration. Given his age (this will be his Age 28 Season) and his profile, which doesn't rely on overpowering stuff, I'm reasonably comfortable he will hold his value. And sure, I can construct scenarios where Lynn comes back and Alex Reyes is ready to step in and there is hypothetically no role for Leake... except Baseball Happens and you ALWAYS need a guy like Mike Leake.
With Spring Training less than two months away, we do not know if the Cardinals are quite finished making moves. Another bullpen piece could be possible, and they are likely to continue to monitor the outfield market although another major signing seems unlikely. The Cardinals 40-man roster currently stands at 38 players. If the Cardinals eventually need another spot, Lance Lynn is a decent candidate to be place on the 60-day disabled list given he will miss the entire season. That would free up another spot as players on the 60-day DL do not count towards the 40-man roster. The updated 40-man roster is as follows: