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Mariners bolster rotation with deal for Leake

Seattle acquires righty with current season and future years in mind
MLB.com

BALTIMORE -- With the Mariners three games out of an American League Wild Card spot, general manager Jerry Dipoto moved to bolster his injury-racked rotation by acquiring veteran right-hander Mike Leake from the Cardinals on Wednesday for Minor League infielder Rayder Ascanio.

The Mariners also received $17 million from the Cards to cover some of Leake's future contract, according to sources, as well as some international slot money.

BALTIMORE -- With the Mariners three games out of an American League Wild Card spot, general manager Jerry Dipoto moved to bolster his injury-racked rotation by acquiring veteran right-hander Mike Leake from the Cardinals on Wednesday for Minor League infielder Rayder Ascanio.

The Mariners also received $17 million from the Cards to cover some of Leake's future contract, according to sources, as well as some international slot money.

Leake is expected to join Seattle on Friday, when it opens a nine-game homestand at Safeco Field, and he will likely start one of the Mariners' weekend games against the A's, Dipoto said.

"This is as much about the next three -- and potentially four -- years as this next four to five weeks," Dipoto said.

But Leake's arrival also signals the desire the Mariners have to end a playoff drought that extends to 2001.

Video: Leake heading to Mariners in trade with Cardinals

"We've always been pushing, and hopefully the guys in the clubhouse realize this is another vote of confidence that we believe in this group and are trying to help," Dipoto said. "Everybody here wants to wind up in the postseason, and those Wild Card spots are still wide open."

Players acquired prior to Thursday's waiver trade deadline are eligible to compete in the postseason, but Leake is more than just a one-month rental, as the 29-year-old still has three more years and about $55 million remaining on a five-year contract he signed with St. Louis following the 2015 season.

"Mike gives us an experienced starter that will help us as we navigate our way toward a playoff spot this season," Dipoto said. "As one of the most durable starters over most of the last decade, he'll be a valuable addition for not just the near future, but for seasons to come."

Leake is set to make $17 million next year, $16 million in 2019 and $15 million in '20. The contract, which included a full no-trade clause, also contains a mutual $18 million option for the '21 season with a $5 million buyout.

Video: Jon Morosi discusses the Mariners' trade for Leake

Dipoto declined to confirm how much cash was included in the deal, but he acknowledged "it was a strong consideration for us. The contribution the Cardinals made was significant and made us feel good about the price point. If Mike Leake was a 30-year-old free agent next year, we'd be comfortable signing him to that contract."

Leake agreed to waive the no-trade clause to come to Seattle and said being considered part of the future is important to him.

"Absolutely," he said. "I thought that's what I was headed toward with St. Louis, but I look forward to it with Seattle. It's a team I've always paid attention to because I grew up a Mariners fan [in California]. And now that I get a chance to put their uniform on and represent this team, it's a huge thing for me and my family."

Ascanio is a 21-year-old who has split most of this season between low Class A Clinton and Class A Advanced Modesto while also playing three games for Triple-A Tacoma. He's hit a combined .217 with nine home runs and 44 RBIs in 111 games in 2017.

Video: COL@STL: Leake fires seven scoreless frames

Leake began the year red hot, going 3-1 with a 1.35 ERA in five April outings before seeing his ERA increasing in each month since. The right-hander is 0-3 with an 8.88 ERA in five starts in August while allowing a .375 opponents' batting average.

"His first 10 starts were spectacular, and obviously the last 10 have not been great," Dipoto said. "Like a lot of guys, you go through highs and lows. In Mike's case, we're going to bet on the big picture. There's enough history with Mike in this league to believe he's just fine."

Leake, speaking by phone from Milwaukee before boarding a flight back to St. Louis to gather his belongings, said the uncertainty of his future had weighed on him in recent weeks.

"Probably this had a little to do with it, as well as I think my body just took a little turn after those first 10 starts," he said. "I was kind of in recoup mode instead of continue to go forward mode. So at this point, I think I've kind of worked those kinks out, and I look forward to another good stretch."

Video: STL@LAD: Leake fans five over eight solid frames

The eight-year veteran was 7-12 with a 4.21 ERA in 26 starts overall for the Cards in 2017 after going 9-12 with a 4.69 ERA in 30 starts with the club in '16. Leake is 80-76 with a 4.02 ERA in 233 career appearances (228 starts).

Since his MLB debut in 2010, Leake's 228 starts are the second most in the National League behind the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw at 233, and Leake is one of eight Major League pitchers to make at least 30 starts in every season since '12.

The Mariners close out a 12-game road trip on Wednesday at Baltimore having lost four straight to fall to 66-67 and three games back of the Twins for the second AL Wild Card spot.

Starting pitching has been Seattle's biggest challenge, as the club has starters Felix Hernandez, James Paxton and Hisashi Iwakuma on the disabled list, while Drew Smyly has missed the entire season with an elbow injury.

Hernandez and Paxton could be back in mid-September, and Leake's arrival should also provide a stabilizing force to a rotation that has relied for most of August on several new additions -- Erasmo Ramirez, Andrew Albers and rookie Marco Gonzales -- along with Yovani Gallardo and Ariel Miranda.

With Smyly and Iwakuma unlikely to return next year, Dipoto was looking to shore up his rotation going forward as well.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals, Mike Leake