The Red Sox and Reds have been frequently linked as potential trade partners this offseason, what with the Reds’ pitching depth and weak outfield and Boston’s completely reversed situation. And if the two teams are able to work something out this winter, there’s a good chance that Reds’ sinkerballer Mike Leake could be heading east to Boston.
Leake gained national recognition in 2010 when he started the season in the Reds’ rotation despite never having played a Minor League game after being drafted the previous year, becoming the first player to jump directly from the draft to MLB since Xavier Nady in 2000. However, while Leake has never quite lived up to the hype that he initially generated, he has settled in as a consistently solid mid-rotation starter for the Reds.
Leake is coming off a season in which he posted a 3.70 ERA, 2.1 BB/9, and career-best 6.9 K/9 in 33 starts, reaching the 200-inning plateau for the first time in his MLB career. Those numbers don’t appear particularly impressive off the bat, but they certainly jump out more considering that Leake pitched half of his games in Great American Ballpark, a notoriously hitter-friendly stadium. In addition, Leake makes up for his low strikeout rate by generating a plethora of ground balls, as he posted a career-high 53.4% ground ball rate in 2014.
With Leake scheduled to hit the free agent market after the 2015 season, the Red Sox and Reds could organize a swap of rentals with Leake coming to Boston and Yoenis Cespedes headed to Cincinnati. The Reds would likely be eager to make this move as fWAR actually rates Cespedes (3.4 WAR) more valuable than Leake (1.9 WAR) and, considering Boston’s glut in the outfield, it would make sense for the Red Sox too.
The Red Sox should hardly make Leake their priority, as there are likely to be better #2 starters available on the trade market. However, if they are unable to swing a trade with other interested parties such as Mariners, Padres, or Mets, then they could turn to the Reds and Leake. Leake is far from the sexiest option available but as a young (27 year old) sinkerballer who has had relative success in Great American Ballpark, it’s easy to imagine that he could fit into the middle of the Red Sox’ rotation.