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Rizzo: Offer made to Leake, but search for starter “tepid”

Dec 9, 2015, 3:36 PM EST

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Updated at 6:09 p.m.

NASHVILLE — Seeking more depth for a rotation that is losing two key stalwarts to free agency this winter, the Nationals made an offer to right-hander Mike Leake this week at the Winter Meetings, general manager Mike Rizzo confirmed Wednesday afternoon.

Rizzo didn’t provide specifics of the offer and framed it as just one of “several” that have been put on the table for free agents over the last few days.

“We’re checking in on a lot of fronts, both pitching and position-player wise,” he said. “I wouldn’t describe it as any further along than a lot of other things that we have.”

Leake likely wouldn’t come cheap; he has been projected to command a contract in the range of 5 years and $80 million. That would represent the second-largest deal the Nationals have ever given to a pitcher, trailing only Max Scherzer’s record-setting, 7-year, $210 million contract from last winter.

Leake has posted solid-if-unspectacular numbers over his career; he’s 64-52 with a 3.88 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in six seasons with the Reds and Giants. But his biggest selling points are durability and reliability — he has made at least 30 starts in each of the last four seasons — and he has strong supporters within the Nationals organization, headlined by Dusty Baker (who previously managed him in Cincinnati).

“We’re very familiar with him,” Rizzo said. “He’s a very athletic pitcher and does a lot of things right. Like I said, he’s one of many things we have in the fire right now.”

The Nationals don’t need to add starting pitching this winter, with Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross already a formidable quintet, and top prospect Lucas Giolito perhaps ready to debut sometime in 2016. But the losses of Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister to free agency this winter does leave the organization with less depth than it has had in the past.

Rizzo has never been reluctant to add pitching even when his staff already appears complete, most notably when he signed Edwin Jackson prior to the 2012 season and Scherzer prior to this season. He attempted Wednesday to downplay the current interest in acquiring another starter.

“I would describe it as tepid,” he said. “It’s not a necessity for us right now, but we’re always in the market to improve the ballclub any way we can. If we have to strengthen a strength or try to refine a weakness, there’s different levels and different strategies going on at the same time.”

  1. carlospaula - Dec 9, 2015 at 3:48 PM

    nothing exciting….a 4th or 5th

  2. Doc - Dec 9, 2015 at 3:56 PM

    Memo to Rizzo: Keep your $80 million in your pocket.

    Of course, Heyman has been wrong many times before.

    • letswin3 - Dec 9, 2015 at 4:17 PM

      Zackly!

  3. natsguy - Dec 9, 2015 at 4:08 PM

    Walker to the Mets.

  4. philipd763 - Dec 9, 2015 at 4:41 PM

    Mike Leake accused of stealing shirts
    4/18/2011 – MLB MIKE LEAKE +3 more
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    CINCINNATI — Reds pitcher Mike Leake was arrested on a shoplifting charge at a downtown department store Monday, accused of trying to steal six shirts with a total value of $59.88.

    The 23-year-old starter was booked at the Hamilton County Justice Center on a first-degree misdemeanor charge of shoplifting. It carries a maximum of 180 days in jail.

    He was arrested about two hours before Cincinnati pitchers were expected at Great American Ball Park to take batting practice before the final game of a series against Pittsburgh. Leake started and got the victory in an 11-2 win over the Pirates on Saturday.

    Reds pitcher Mike Leake was arrested on a shoplifting charge Monday, accused of trying to steal six shirts valued at $59.88. Christian Petersen/Getty Images
    Leake said in a statement released by the Reds that his attorney told him not to discuss the arrest. Leake apologized to his family, to the club and to fans “for this distraction.”

    The Reds issued a statement saying, “We do not condone behavior of the type alleged, which is wholly inconsistent with the principles of this organization and our community and is detrimental to the positive direction we seek to follow. When the legal process has been completed, we will handle this matter internally.”

    Police arrest reports said Leake removed the price tags from six American Rag T-shirts at a Macy’s store and tried to leave without paying for them. Leake makes $425,000 in his second season in the majors.

    A Macy’s spokesman said the company had no comment beyond what was reported by police.

    Leake was the eighth overall pick in the June 2009 draft and made the jump directly from Arizona State to the majors last spring, when he won the fifth starter’s spot in the rotation. He was the 21st player who went right from the draft to the majors since 1965.

    The right-hander helped the Reds get started toward their NL Central title, going 8-4 with a 4.23 ERA in 22 starts and two relief appearances. The Reds shut him down at 138 1/3 innings, not wanting to hurt his arm by pushing him too far as a rookie.

    Leake has made three starts this season, going 2-0 with a 5.40 ERA.

    The Reds have been relying on Leake again this season while they get through shoulder injuries to starters Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey.

    Bailey has been on the disabled list since the start of the season with an inflamed pitching shoulder. He threw 62 pitches in five scoreless innings for Triple-A Louisville on Sunday, allowing two hits.

    Bailey said on Monday that he felt fine and was encouraged by his showing. He’ll make one more start in the minors and if that goes well, he could be activated.

    “It went pretty good,” said Bailey, who allowed only two hits. “I didn’t feel any pain, which is plus No. 1. Early on I felt good. About the fifth inning, I felt pretty tired there. That goes with the territory of building up the pitches.”

    Cueto made his first rehab start on Saturday and had no issues.

    “Don’t forget, we’re not whole until we get those two guys back,” manager Dusty Baker said. “I knew it was going to be a tough period of time, even though we’ve started off well, until we get those two back.”

    • loudounhound - Dec 9, 2015 at 4:51 PM

      Obviously, he needs the money. Pay the man, Shirley!

      • npb99 - Dec 9, 2015 at 7:34 PM

        Ha!

    • Doc - Dec 9, 2015 at 5:51 PM

      Now he’s trying to fleece the Nats!

      Delinquent habits are hard to break. LOL

  5. philipd763 - Dec 9, 2015 at 4:56 PM

    With Ben Zobrist gone, why don’t the Nationals have some interest in signing Daniel Murphy? He hits from the left side, is 5 years younger than Zobrist, is a better hitter and he could probably be had for 4 years at $45 to $50 million. Granted, he’s not as good a fielder as Zobrist but his career average is .288 vs .265 for Zobrist and Murphy has developed some power in the last year while still being a good contact hitter. To me, he seems like the answer at 2nd base and then we can trade Escobar.

    • bowdenball - Dec 9, 2015 at 5:07 PM

      They might have some interest. If they don’t it’s because he’s absolutely awful defensively and presumably will get even worse as he ages, to the point where he could be unplayable for NL teams within a year or two.

      • langleyclub - Dec 9, 2015 at 5:54 PM

        Like Murphy’s bat, but where do the Nats play him? He is an awful 2nd baseman. He also has no speed. He is more of a corner IF, and the Nats cannot put Rendon at 2b again.

      • Doc - Dec 9, 2015 at 6:02 PM

        Watching Murphy in the WS he did his best in the field to see that the Mets lost!

  6. Section 222 - Dec 9, 2015 at 5:36 PM

    So much for that Neil Walker idea. Mets land him for Niese.

    • DaveB - Dec 9, 2015 at 6:32 PM

      Yep … he seemed like a nice (cheaper, younger, shorter term) fallback after missing on Zobrist. Obviously didn’t have the advantage of also being a plus OF that could fill in for Werth, etc., but still had some good strengths. I was actually wondering if perhaps the interest in Leake was at least partially driven by Pittsburgh asking for a pitcher in return for Walker (will never know, but will be interesting to see if the Nats interest in Leake falls off now that Walker is gone).
      I wonder if the Nats will now end up getting involved with Brett Lawrie given their history with Beane, and the deal with the White Sox seemingly falling through.

      • letsallbaseball - Dec 9, 2015 at 7:00 PM

        There’s also some reported interest in Kazmir

      • virginiascopist - Dec 9, 2015 at 7:04 PM

        Now, Kazmir I think I would prefer to Leake. Is he projected to cost more?

      • letsallbaseball - Dec 9, 2015 at 8:30 PM

        I had read he wants 4 years. He had a better year by ERA at least but he’s older.

  7. senators5 - Dec 9, 2015 at 11:47 PM

    Before Dusty went all over the map and maybe in the ditch, he hit it right on the head, “We need left handed pitching, left handed hitting and speed.” We still do. Where is Span? I would like to get him back.

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