The Giants bolstered their rotation for the stretch run on Thursday night, acquiring right-hander Mike Leake from the Cincinnati Reds for two minor-league players less than 24 hours before the non-waiver trade deadline.
The Giants had approached the deal looking to upgrade their rotation but were unable to land front-line starters Cole Hamels or David Price. Leake, however, is a solid addition and a pitcher the Giants have had their eye on for some time. The 27-year-old is 9-5 with a 3.56 ERA this season and has pitched exceptionally well of late, going 4-1 with a 1.25 ERA in July.
“We’ve been exploring and in touch with Cincinnati on Leake since Day One, among some other options,” Giants general manager Bobby Evans said on a conference call Thursday night. “There was a very small list for us in terms of guys we thought could play an impact in our rotation, and Mike was very much a part of that list. We feel very fortunate to get him.”
Evans said the Giants hope Leake could benefit from coming to San Francisco. He had been pitching at hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark with the Reds. Leake has posted significantly better numbers on the road this season – 5-2 with a 2.28 ERA in 10 starts – and in five career outings at AT&T Park (four starts) is 4-0 with a 2.59 ERA.
Leake could join the Giants as early as Friday in Texas, when they will begin figuring where he slots into the rotation. Evans said he had already informed Tim Hudson and Hudson’s agent that the trade would affect Hudson’s spot in the rotation – not a surprise, given Hudson’s 4.80 ERA this season.
Evans said Hudson told him he’s open to a bullpen role, but the roster breakdown is still to be determined. The Giants will also have to make a 25-man roster move for Leake.
The Giants’ rotation now consists of Madison Bumgarner, Chris Heston, Leake, Jake Peavy and Matt Cain. Bumgarner and Heston have nearly identical numbers, and Peavy has pitched well since coming off the DL in early June, completing at least six innings in all of his starts. Evans said the Giants feel confident in that rotation going forward.
“We’re still working hard with Matt, and we’ve got (Ryan) Vogelsong in the wings, who can come in and be part of the rotation if the opportunity presents itself,” Evans said. “With Bumgarner and Heston leading the way I feel like we’ve got some depth that should give us a good chance to win, day in and day out.”’
Landing Hamels or Price might have made a bigger splash – and Evans said Hamels in fact waived his no-trade clause amid the possibility of being dealt to the Giants before the Phillies opted to deal the left-hander instead to Texas. With Leake, the Giants traded for a pitcher who will be a free agent after the season. But Evans said the Giants already had Leake “on our radar” as a candidate to pursue this offseason, and they now have a chance to woo him while he’s wearing their uniform.
“Having him in-house will certainly give us an advantage and early read on whether he likes it here and has interest in staying,” Evans said. “It definitely gives us an advantage.”
To get Leake, the Giants parted with Adam Duvall – a corner infielder who is leading the Pacific Coast League in home runs with Triple-A Sacramento but was blocked at third base by Matt Duffy – and Keury Mella, a 21-year-old starter who was pitching at High-A San Jose and represented the Giants at this year’s Futures Game.
Evans acknowledged it was difficult to part with Mella, who has significant upside, but that the Giants knew that adding an impact pitcher at the deadline “would cost us some talent.” The Giants still feel like they have starting depth in the system, having used their top picks in the last two drafts on starters Tyler Beede and Phil Bickford. And they now have an upgraded rotation as they try to defend their World Series championship.
“It’s just a good fit for us,” Evans said of Leake, “in terms of getting a control pitcher who’s not going to overpower guys, but who’s going to be able to go out there and be consistent and give us a chance to win every day he goes out.”