Four pitchers the Blue Jays should target in trade talks

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Apr 30, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Mike Leake (44) fields a ball for an out at first base in the eighth inning of their game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. The Reds won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Leake – Cincinnati Reds

Mike Leake has made himself an interesting trade candidate in 2015. In six starts, the 27-year-old right-hander has posted a solid 2.47 ERA and an ERA+ of 152. An extreme groundball guy, Leake induces ground balls in 53.1% of his at-bats or at a 1.84 GB/FB ratio.

Those are encouraging statistics for a guy pitching in an extremely hitter-friendly park (Great American Ballpark – 9th in Park Factor), especially when you talk about bringing him into another park that typically plays favorably for hitters. Given the slow carpet in Toronto, it could even play as an advantage.

Of course, there are red flags for Leake as well. While he generates a ton of groundballs, he doesn’t see a lot of swing and miss action. His 5.6 K/9 ratio is currently the lowest of his career, and the combination of low K-rates and his groundball rates have left him with a 4.10 FIP, which is more in line with his career ERA of 3.85. That foretells that Leake is likely due for regression, especially if you introduce him to American League line-ups.

Likelihood of a deal happening:

The Cincinnati Reds are the classic example that Alex Anthopoulos was referring to. At .500 entering play on Friday, the Reds are 7 games out of first place, but that’s mostly due to the excellent start the Cardinals have ahead of them. That said, the Reds are looking at a significant turnover in terms of free agents after the 2015 season. Along with Leake, Johnny Cueto is also expected to hit free agency, and with Homer Bailey having undergone Tommy John surgery and out for most of 2016, the Reds may try to extend Leake before he hits free agency. He profiles very similarly to Rick Porcello and could be a solid, if not spectacular pitcher that could be overpaid if hitting the free agent market.

That said, there’s a deal to be made here, and could be light in terms of cost due to his impending free agency, but Leake’s availability likely won’t be known until closer to the deadline.

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