The Cincinnati Reds have the luxury of a loaded starting rotation that is as strong as any in baseball. With four of the five starters including Mike Leake most likely headed for free agency after the 2015 season, the Reds are in a position of strength to trade one of their starters now for a maximum return.
Among those starters with free agency looming, Leake is probably the one worth trading now, more so than Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos or Alfredo Simon, who are all more important for the Reds if the team is to contend for NL Central titles this year and next.
The Reds can’t expect the same kind of haul in trade if they dealt Leake instead of Cueto or Latos, but the continuing success of Leake could make him a surprise trade deadline target if the Reds don’t ultimately intend to sign him to a contract extension.
The Reds are likely to summons veteran major league pitcher Chien-Ming Wang from their Triple-A affiliate for a spot start in an upcoming double-header game next week, and if Wang is impressive enough, the effort to trade Leake might intensify.
Wang has posted a 3.48 ERA in 101 innings over 16 minor league starts and continues to hang around as a primarily ground ball pitcher with a 1.87 grounder-to-fly out ratio this year.
While Wang won’t likely be able to match the success that Leake has had this year after a breakout 2013 season (3.37 ERA in 192-plus innings), he does offer some fifth starter insurance in the event that former Reds’ starter Tony Cingrani is unable to sufficiently heal from shoulder discomfort that has landed him on the minor-league disabled list.
Leake is having a a career year for strikeouts, compiling 84 at the halfway point of the year which puts him on a pace to easily surpass his career-high of 122 last year.
With another strong outing by Leake and an impressive showing by Wang, the Reds could have a lot to offer by trading Leake and inserting Wang into the rotation.