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Yankees 2016 Potential Free Agent Target: Mike Leake

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If the Yankees aren't going to go for high-end free agents but still want a starting pitcher, Leake could fit the bill.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks just unloaded a truckload of money for David Price and Zack Greinke, respectively, hoping that around $200 million a piece is enough to give them the ace-level performances they need to put them over the top. The Yankees probably don't have that kind of money to spend this offseason, so mid-range targets would be the only realistic options, if we believe the team's rhetoric at the moment. One of those mid-range targets is none other than Mike Leake.

While not nearly as good as similar free agent Jeff Samardzija's ceiling, for example, Leake's floor is certainly higher. Over the course of six professional seasons and 1083.2 innings, Leake has put up a career 100 ERA-, 107 FIP-, and 104 DRA-. While on strict run prevention he has been exactly average, both FIP and DRA say he hasn't been quite that. Nonetheless, he put up a stellar 83 DRA- and 3.3 WARP over 192 innings this past season.

If there's one thing Leake offers, it's versatility. In his career he has only had fewer than 150 innings once, and that was his rookie season when he tossed 138.1. He has averaged 181 innings, and his only major injuries were a shoulder strain about five years ago, and a strained hamstring he suffered through in August. He has no history of forearm or elbow issues, and he frankly just doesn't throw hard enough to warrant serious alarm over that.

His repertoire features a fastball, cutter, slider, knuckle curve, and change, and he usually operates in the high 80's or low 90's with his fastball, and low to mid 80's with his slider and change. No single pitch is overwhelming, and no single pitch is incredibly underwhelming. He generates a ton of ground balls (15th highest percentage among starters), and a majority of his contact (55%) is of the medium variety, according to Fangraphs.

According to most predictions, Leake will likely command a contract around four or five years, at an average annual value of about $15 million. Considering his age (28) and durability, that isn't unreasonable at all. The Yankees do have $184 million committed already, even before arbitration prices have been decided, but considering they spent nearly $13 million between Garrett Jones, Chris Capuano, Brendan Ryan, and Esmil Rogers--players that had almost no value in 2015--it isn't ridiculous to think that that amount could be added in an actual starting pitcher, one that could provide at least 150 innings next year.

The fit isn't obvious, though. The starting rotation is somehow filled but with a ton of question marks, as the depth goes as follows: Masahiro Tanaka, Adam Warren, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Severino, CC Sabathia, and Bryan Mitchell. I don't know who would be booted from the rotation if Leake were signed, so you don't want to waste a roster spot. But at the same time, there's a good chance someone in there goes down due to injury at some point, so having some insurance wouldn't be a horrible idea. A signing could also push them to trade from depth if need be, but as I mentioned, that depth is tenuous. The Yankees are in a peculiar position as far as starting pitching goes, but Leake is an option that could be reasonably priced given free agent contracts these days, and he could provide a bit of season-long consistency the Yankees have lacked in recent years.