With the non-waiver trade deadline just over five weeks away, it is clear that the Yankees rotation needs a bit of help. CC Sabathia ranks among the worst starting pitchers in baseball, and Nate Eovaldi isn't too far behind (or ahead, depending on your point of view). Michael Pineda has been shelled in two of his last three starts, and four of his last seven. And, in the minds of some, Masahiro Tanaka has been downright awful. Sure - Adam Warren has looked quite good ... but he remains relatively unproven, and may not have much left in the tank (he's already at 77.0 IP, after tossing 78.2 IP 2014 and 77.0 in 2013). And, yes, Ivan Nova is back ... but consistency has never really been his game.
The Yankees recognize this, obviously, and their scouts have been busy. In the last week alone, they've scouted Reds starter Mike Leake twice; many believe that he is the team's chief target. And to that, I say 'why?'
Leake has time on his side, as he is only 27. Many have viewed him through that purview, in fact. But he will be a free agent at season's end, so focusing on his age is mostly irrelevant (and qualifying offers cannot be made to mid-season acquisitions). He is also a something of a worm-burning specialist, with his 53.5 GB% ranking 14th in the Majors (and that is no fluke - he had a 53.4 GB% last year, and a 50.2 mark for his career). And he's durable, having made at least 30 starts in three consecutive seasons, and making all of his turns thus far in 2015.
That all adds up to ... a rather average starter.
Leake's ERA (3%) and FIP (20%) are both below-average this season, and his strikeout rate is borderline awful (14.8% and 5.52 K/9 versus league-average marks of 20.1% and 7.64). He doesn't quite make up for not missing bats by being stingy with his walks, either, with BB/9 and BB% rates that are right around average. And, worst of all, he's home run prone - he's allowing 1.30 HR/9 this season, and has a 1.15 HR/9 for his career. Lefties are batting .255/.308/.462 against Leake this season, and .275/.326/.451 since he reached the show.
In short, Leake and Yankee Stadium seem like a match made in heaven for the opposing ballclub.
As readily apparent as the need for a starting pitcher is, I cannot understand the interest in Mike Leake. The only starters that he offers a clear-cut upgrade over at this moment are Sabathia and Eovaldi, the former of which I cannot see going anywhere (barring injury). Shifting Warren or Eovaldi to the pen may help bolster that group, but does not necessarily improve the rotation. It may actually represent a lateral move and, even if the cost is far below what Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto would merit, making a move for the sake of making a move seems inane.
And that is what Leake represents.