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Rumor Mill: Are Cardinals interested in Mike Leake?

It seemed for years after former St. Louis general manager Walt Jocketty was hired by the Cincinnati Reds that he was trying to reassemble the Redbirds to the east.

Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen and Miguel Cairo were former St. Louis players imported into the Queen City.

If the rumor mill is to be believed, the Cardinals could be soon be intent on making the pipeline flow in the other direction.

Reports indicate St. Louis, fresh off of being spurned by top free agent hurler David Price, is interested in former Cincinnati hurler Mike Leake.

Leake is not Price. He’s not an ace who a manager would love to send to the mound to start the first game of a playoff series.

He’s a relatively mediocre 64-52 with a 3.88 ERA and he’s allowed more than 21 home runs in all but one of his six seasons.

Of course, part of that can be attributed to the fact that Cincinnati’s home ballpark is a home run haven. But Leake has only given up 10 more home runs at home (72) than he did on the road with three more home starts. So he can’t totally blame the stadium for his troubles.

Where the home field disadvantage does show up is the batting average against and slugging percentage allowed statistics. Leake gave up a .274 BAA in home starts and a .444 slugging percentage. Away from Cincinnati he gave up a .257 BAA and a .408 slugging percentage.

For what it’s worth, Leake is 2-2 over his career at Busch Stadium with a 3.19 earned run average.

Against National League Central foes, Leake is:

▪ 9-2 with a 3.15 ERA against the Chicago Cubs

▪ 8-3 with a 3.01 ERA against the Pittsburgh Pirates

▪ 2-3 with a 4.60 ERA against the Milwaukee Brewers

Leake isn’t the co-ace the Cardinals have lacked since the retirement of Chris Carpenter. But he is a capable pitcher who could fill the shoes of injured St. Louis starter Lance Lynn.

Traded mid-season last year to the San Francisco Giants, Leake wouldn’t require draft pick compensation. So that’s a plus. And it appears he’s a cheaper alternative to former Cubs hurler Jeff Samardzija who tops the B-list free agent want list.

It remains to see how competitive his market will be. The Giants are currently engaged in a bidding war with the Los Angeles Dodgers over the most expensive remaining free agent pitcher, Zack Greinke.

Reports indicate the Cardinals are unlikely to jump into the Greinke derby. His age, 32, allegedly makes him a less attractive pitcher than Price, two years younger.

But, if the Cardinals were willing to give Price $187 million over seven years, wouldn’t it make sense in a lot of ways to offer Greinke five years and, say, $165 million?

Sure, it’d be a little more expensive by percentage, on an annual basis. But he’d be the same age Price would have been if he inked his offer from St. Louis. And he is the co-ace the Cardinals covet.