We have spent a lot of time recently talking about Seattle Mariners RHP Mike Leake and what his trade value could be for the coming season. Today, we continue to ride that train.
Since we have talked so much about this in the past week or so, we can establish a few things straight away. First, the Mariners are absolutely open to trading Mike Leake. In fact, we already wrote about a report that said Leake was nearly traded to Arizona last week.
And in that same report, we can establish that Arizona has an interest in acquiring the former Arizona State Sun Devil. Now as for why the Diamondbacks would be interested, it’s an interesting situation.
The Diamondbacks find themselves at 35-33, 10 games back in the NL West. However, they are still just 3 games back of the second wild-card spot and are dealing with Luke Weaver‘s injury. In addition, the slew of arms the Diamondbacks have thrown into the 5th spot of the rotation have been a disaster.
Now, is Leake going to make up 3 games for them? Probably not. But if Arizona doesn’t address the rotation now, it may not matter where they sit in four weeks. And with no August trade period this year, they’ll need to be more aggressive than usual.
The return for Leake is an interesting question. After all, he is owed a good chunk of money and is not anywhere near an ace. But Leake is reliable. And right now, he is pitching really well. The nearly completed deal was never leaked, no pun intended, so we have no information to go on in formulating our deal.
But we can assume at least one thing: the Mariners will eat money in the right deal. How much may determine the return, but won’t net the team a significantly better prospect than if they eat less than half the money.
There are actually a couple of interesting MLB options to consider in this trade, including 29-year-old RHP Zack Godley. Godley has struggled since 2017 and is out of options. If the Diamondbacks are out of patience, Godley is an expendable piece for them and Leake would be a clear upgrade.
But in the end, we think Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto will go the prospect route when looking to trade Leake. Here is our proposal:
In our deal, the Mariners eat about half of Leake’s remaining contract and come away with former Oregon Duck Matt Mercer, a 6’2″ right-handed pitcher. Mercer is the ideal return for Leake. He carries some upside, with 3 above-average pitches including a fastball that touches 97 mph, and a good change and curve that flash plus at times.
The issues with Mercer are two-fold. First, he had a Tommy John Surgery when he was in High School. With how successful that surgery is, that shouldn’t be too big of a problem. Second, he is almost certainly destined for the bullpen.
There is a lot of effort in Mercer’s delivery, which ultimately could hinder both his command and stamina going forward. While Mercer generally throws strikes, he is living off his above-average stuff and will need to be able to spot his pitches against stiffer competition.
In the bullpen, these concerns are mitigated, but it does ultimately handicap his upside. If the Mariners did acquire Mercer, they should give him every opportunity to prove him wrong and see if he can stick in a rotation.
But even if he is a bullpen guy going forward, he has a solid late-inning profile and an accelerated timeline to the big leagues.
While Mercer isn’t a prospect that would slide into the Mariners top 15 right now, he could very well be there in one years time, which is exactly what this team should target when shopping Mike Leake.