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mike leake reds[See the updates below, as the sides are reportedly now in agreement.]

Might the Cardinals finally get their starting pitcher addition this offseason?

Chris Cotillo reports that there’s “growing belief” that Mike Leake will sign soon, which, at this time of year, I would read to mean that a deal is probably just about done, with an eye toward being complete in advance of the holiday. Cotillo says that the Cardinals are a strong contender, and later adds that they are viewed as favorites.

Leake has been connected to the Cardinals before this offseason, and we know that the Cardinals need to pick up at least one starting pitcher, given their tenuous rotation situation. Various projections have Leake, 28, getting a five-year deal in the $80 million range, though that was before the market exploded upward in December. Will that impact Leake, given his youth? Or will he still be an affordable option, given his general lack of upside?

Michael wrote at length about Leake as a possible target for the Cubs earlier in the offseason, and it’s interesting how you look at things differently if you’re talking about a Cubs target or a Cardinals target. For example, this reads like a guy you’d want the Cardinals dropping $80+ million on:

What Leake fails to offer in upside, he provides in consistency. His 28th birthday is tomorrow, and a team could do much worse than a young, healthy pitcher with a low walk rate and a high ground ball rate. Unfortunately, without increasing his strikeouts at all, he will probably never enter that next level.

Steamer doesn’t seem to love Leake for 2016, though, by now, you can understand why. The system pegs him for just a 4.14 ERA (4.22 FIP), expecting his LOB% to trend down to 71.0% and his BABIP to move back up to a more normal .298. It does, however, anticipate that he’ll make 198 innings. Maybe an inning eater is more appropriate than a workhorse.

Leake is young, and has been consistently decent, but not great. There’s value in that, especially in the latter half of the rotation. But Leake remains a guy whose average season’s worth of WAR is under 2.0, so he’s probably not going to give you more than steadiness.

I think Cubs fans would rather see the Cardinals commit five years to a guy like that than to acquire a higher-upside guy in trade. Of course, there’s always a chance that there’s some untapped potential in Leake’s arm that the Cardinals could bring out.

We’ll see if that’s where he actually lands, and then we’ll see how it impacts the rest of the Cardinals’ offseason.

UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal adds smoke, say that the sides are “close.” Seems like this is going to happen.

UPDATE 2: Chris Cotillo adds that the deal is expected to be in the five-year, $75 million range.

UPDATE 3: And there it is:

We’ll see the final numbers when it’s all settled, but Leake is a solid addition to the Cardinals, even if not a sexy one. Though I should point out the Kyle Lohse comparison that was mentioned in the comments and in some places on Twitter. Lohse was probably a bit better than people remember before coming to the Cardinals, but still – it’s a reminder that this profile of a pitcher can get better as he passes age 30, and the Cardinals have done it before.

I’ll have more thoughts on the impact to the Cardinals soon.

UPDATE 4: This is a surprising addition:

A no-trade clause for Leake? I’m surprised the Cardinals had to go there, especially on a five-year deal. The Cubs included no-trade rights in all three of their major free agent signings this offseason, though, so maybe it’s just becoming more commonplace.

And the deal:

That’s a whole lotta money for a steady, back-of-the-rotation type, but pitching is expensive. I’ll say it again: you know what was a great deal? The John Lackey deal.

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