Why are the Reds rushing prospect Mike Leake?

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In my “Daily Dose” column this morning I wondered why the Reds decided to have last year’s first-round pick, Mike Leake, completely skip the minors to join their rotation.
To me it makes little sense on several different levels, because at 22 years old giving him a couple months at Double-A or Triple-A would probably be a positive thing for Leake’s development and by doing so the Reds could push back his eventual free agency for an entire year. In other words, what’s the huge rush?
Beyond the long-term development and service time issues, of course, is the question or whether Leake is even ready for the majors right now. Marc Hulet of Fan Graphs scouted Leake in a March 20 spring training start against the Giants and came away unimpressed to say the least:

Leake’s fastball hit 90 mph just once in this three-inning outing. He varied his arm angles to give the hitters different looks but it seemed to throw off his control. The former first rounder’s heater was MLB average at best in this game. His secondary stuff wasn’t fooling anyone, for the most part.

Certainly one poor spring training start isn’t worth focusing on and most people seem to agree that Leake is a very promising pitching prospect with a strong chance to become at least a middle-of-the-rotation starter. However, the larger point is that Leake isn’t an overpowering pitcher and, while often praised for his command and polish, is far from a finished product at age 22.
Why hasten his development, start his service time clock ticking, and throw him right into the big-league fire when the upside is a half-dozen extra starts from a guy who may not even be ready to thrive against major-league hitters yet? If the Nationals can show some patience with Stephen Strasburg, you’d think the Reds could do the same with the guy selected seven picks later.
Incidentally, you can find more of Hulet’s excellent prospect reports every week as part of Rotoworld’s award-winning Season Pass product.

Phillies sign outfielder Michael Saunders

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 3: Michael Saunders #21 of the Toronto Blue Jays runs to first after being walked during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 3, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Phillies have signed free agent outfielder Michael Saunders.

Saunders was an All-Star in 2016 due to his wonderful start, but he cratered in the second half of the season. Overall is numbers looked good — he hit 24 homers and posted a line of .253/.338/.478, but his second half line was .178/.282/.357 in 58 games. He’s not the best defender around either.

The Phillies could use him, however, and if he has another red hot first half, there’s a decent chance they could flip him if they wanted to.

Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays nearing a two-year, $35-40 million deal

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista flips his bat after hitting a three-run homer during seventh inning game 5 American League Division Series baseball action in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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It was first reported that the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista were close to a deal last night. Now Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal is near completion. It will likely a two-year contract in the $35-40 million range.

Bautista had a tough 2016, hitting .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI, and some clubs likely considered a long-term deal for the 36-year-old too risky, this leading to the relative lack of reported interest in Bautista by other clubs. But back-to-back ALCS appearances by the Jays and the success and popularity Bautista has experienced in Toronto make his re-signing there a pretty sensible move for all involved.

The Jays, who already lost Edwin Encarnacion to free agency, get their slugger back on a short term deal. Unlike anyone else, they don’t have to give up the draft pick attached to him via the qualifying offer. Bautista, in turn, will make, on average, more than he would’ve made on the qualifying offer if he would’ve accepted it and a raise over the $14 million he made in 2016.