ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Trading a Major League starting pitcher for a prospect, late in the season, sounds like a team focused on the future, but St. Louis Cardinals president of baseball operations believes that’s not the case here.
“We expect to compete,” John Mozeliak says. “We are just going to do it with a different name and a different face – creating opportunity internally, and we are excited about those options. We are still in it and we expect to have success.”
Mozeliak spoke to reporters by conference call on Wednesday afternoon after the trade of Mike Leake to Seattle, for minor league shortstop Rayder Ascanio.
St. Louis trails the Chicago Cubs by five games, and even further back in the Wild Card standing, as the last month of the season is nearly here.
Leake’s second season in St. Louis began with All-Star potential, with a 1.35 ERA in March and April. But his early success has been overshadowed with an ERA over four in both June and July, then a 8.88 ERA in August.
Leake spoke with Seattle media after the trade, and says he’s excited to “be apart of the Mariners.” He was asked about what has led to his struggles as the season progressed.
“Probably this had a little bit to do with it, and as well as I think my body took a little turn after those first 10 starts,” Leake says.
One reporter followed up and asked what Leake meant by “this.”
“Just kind of this whole situation,” Leake says. “They decided to go younger, so again it’s just not a good feeling when you are leaving, but it’s exciting to move on.”
Seattle won’t be paying all of the $55 million left on Leake’s $80 million, five-year deal. Mozeliak says the team did “eat some money” but didn’t disclose a specific amount. The Associated Press reports, St. Louis will send Seattle $17.5 million to cover a portion of the $55.6 million Leake is guaranteed during the remainder of an $80 million, five-year contract through 2020. The Mariners also acquired $750,000 in international signing bonus allotment as part of the deal.
St. Louis also will loss $750,000 international cap space in the current signing period, after acquiring the Venezuelan infielder.
Ascanio is expected to join single-A Palm Beach this week.
“He’s a defensive specialist who has upside as a switch-hitter,” Mozeliak says. “In this business sometimes you want to take chances on someone who is younger, and we feel he has some upside. We look at it from a scouting standpoint, and we had a lot of favorable reports on him and thought he is the right person to fit what we are trying to do.
On Friday, MLB rosters will expand and September call-ups will begin. That’s when minor leaguers like Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson (two of St. Louis’ top pitching prospects) could join the Major League club. Mozeliak says that was a main factor in the Leake trade, making opportunities for future starters.
On Tuesday night, another of St. Louis’ top pitching prospects, Luke Weaver struck out 10 batters in game for the second time this season. He is now 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA this year in seven starts.
Mozeliak says the trade gave the Cardinals an early start on their offseason plans, which might be to “reshuffle the deck.” He was asked if the deal will impact their chances of resigning Lance Lynn, who will be a free agent after this season.
“I don’t think I would draw any conclusions by what we did today to determine what we are going to do in the offseason in that regard,” Mozeliak says. “When you look at our young pitching coming, we certainly feel like that’s the strength and that’s our future. A name we forget a lot about because of Tommy John surgery is Alex Reyes. He is progressing very well and ultimately we believe he will be a part of our rotation next year.”
Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto said the trade talks for Leake had been ongoing for about a week, and they plan to use him in this weekend’s series against the Oakland Athletics.
He says the deal also fast-tracked their offseason plans, and because the waiver trade was finalized before September Leake would be available to pitch in the playoffs. Seattle is three games out of a Wild Card spot.