Cardinals sign Mike Leake for five years, $80 million

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UPDATE: Rosenthal says it’s a done deal for five years and $80 million, plus an $18 million team option for 2021.

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After missing out on David Price and Jason Heyward the Cardinals are still looking to land a prominent free agent and Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that they’re “close” to signing right-hander Mike Leake.

Leake is nowhere near Price’s level as an impact starter, but at age 28 he’s been a solid, durable mid-rotation starter with a 3.88 ERA in six seasons as a major leaguer, including a 3.70 ERA in 192 innings for the Reds and Giants in 2015. He also doesn’t require losing a first-round draft pick to sign, as the midseason trade from Cincinnati to San Francisco took him out of the qualifying offer mix.

He’d be a good addition to any rotation and there’s rarely such a thing as too much starting pitching depth, but it’s a little curious that the Cardinals would be interested in spending big money on a mid-level starter like Leake when they have plenty of younger, cheaper options waiting in the wings. They clearly value his consistency and durability, and perhaps they think there are tweaks to be made that could raise Leake’s mediocre career strikeout rate of 6.1 per nine innings.

MLB rejected Players’ 114-game season proposal, will not send a counter

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that Major League Baseball has rejected the MLBPA’s proposal for a 114-game season and said it would not send a counter offer. The league said it has started talks with owners “about playing a shorter season without fans, and that it is ready to discuss additional ideas with the union.”

This should be understood as a game of chicken.

The background here is that the the owners are pretty much locked into the idea of paying players a prorated share of their regular salaries based on number of games played. The players, meanwhile, are pretty much locked in to the idea that the owners can set the length of the season that is played. Each side is trying to leverage their power in this regard.

The players proposed a probably unworkable number of games — 114 — as a means of setting the bidding high on a schedule that will work out well for them financially. Say, a settled agreement at about 80 games or so. The owners were rumored to be considering a counteroffer of a low number of games — say, 50 — as a means of still getting a significant pay cut from the players even if they’re being paid prorata. What Rosenthal is now reporting is that they won’t even counter with that.

Which is to say that the owners are trying to get the players to come off of their prorated salary rights under the threat of a very short schedule that would end up paying them very little. They won’t formally offer that short schedule, however, likely because (a) they believe that the threat of uncertain action is more formidable; and (b) they don’t want to be in the position of publicly demanding fewer baseball games, which doesn’t look very good to fans. They’d rather be in the position of saying “welp, the players wouldn’t talk to us about money so we have no choice, they forced us into 50 games.”

In other news, the NBA seems very close to getting its season resumed.