ARLINGTON -- With the Trade Deadline looming and mere hours remaining until that final bell rings, veteran pitchers starting for teams not considered contenders may view their outings this week as one final audition for teams seeking help.
Mike Leake, a veteran starter whose name has surfaced – albeit lightly -- in the past few weeks as possible trade bait, assumed that the fact that he made his start against the Rangers signaled a likelihood that he was not going to be dealt.
Leake said in his postgame comments following the Mariners’ 8-5 win over the Rangers at Globe Life Park that he had been approached by Seattle’s front office to gauge his willingness in possibly waiving his full no-trade clause for a specific team that had inquired about him. When nothing came of it, and he remained on schedule to pitch, Leake took that as a signal he’ll still be a Mariner on Wednesday when the Trade Deadline passes just after 1 p.m. PT.
But there is still one day to go, and indications are that more than one team has checked in on him.
“There's still a possibility, I’m sure,” Leake said. ”Right now, I look at it as I'm not getting traded. At this point, I think I'll plan on being a Mariner for the rest of the year.”
How much his performance on Tuesday swayed potential suitors is up for debate. For five innings, Leake looked like a force, scattering seven hits and inducing two inning-ending double plays that thwarted what little momentum the Rangers were able to muster. But Leake faced seven hitters in a long, ineffective sixth inning that produced four Rangers runs, knocking him from the game.
It’s notable that the announced temperature at first pitch was 98 degrees.
“They found some holes,” manager Scott Servais said. “It happens. The infield plays fast here. They put the bat on the ball. I thought Mike's stuff early in the ballgame was really crisp. It was 95 degrees out here and it takes a toll on you, certainly as you get deeper in the game.”
The sixth inning began with Rangers first baseman Danny Santana’s 16th homer of the year. Rougned Odor drove in two with a double to center, and Delino DeShields -- Leake's final batter -- singled in Odor to tie the game at 5.
“They started making adjustments,” Leake said. “My pitches weren't getting off the plate as much as they would like. I tried to balance, but I wasn't quite getting it there.”
Was this Leake's final start as a Mariner? The market for the veteran starter has been difficult to gauge, for two reasons. First, more high-profile, elite starters have been gobbling up the attention, speculation and, likely, discussion between front offices. And second, Leake is still owed quite a bit on his contract.
Leake is under contract through 2020, will be paid $15 million next season -- $4 million by the Cardinals -- and has a $5 million buyout on his $18 million mutual option for '21.
Leake has said in the past that his no-trade clause would not be a deal-breaker, if the right situation came along. Contending teams still searching for pitching help surely know that Leake has been very good at times this season, especially when he’s not facing the Rangers. He’s allowed 24 runs (19 earned) across four starts vs. Texas this year; against everyone else, Leake has a 3.70 ERA.
The 31-year-old right-hander will be paying attention to the final hours until the deadline on Wednesday. Will he still be with the team when it heads to Houston following this brief two-game set in Arlington?
“I’m still a Mariner,” Leake said. “I'm here to pitch. My career, I hope is longer than just a year or two. I'm not trying just to be content with what I have.”
Seager double shy of cycle
Kyle Seager said he was happy, then sad, then happy again as he watched Delino DeShields make a mad dash to the center-field wall to attempt to rob him of his second-inning solo homer.
Happy, because the ball traveled a far distance. Then sad, because it looked like DeShields made an over-the-wall catch. Then happy again, when DeShields came up empty.
"It ended up working out," Seager said. "I saw him go up and I thought it hit his glove, but I couldn't see any more than that. I was just looking at the umpire, seeing if he'd give me good news."
Seager fell a double short of the cycle while driving in half the Mariners' runs. In addition to his 397-foot homer, he singled in the fifth and tripled in the seventh. But Seager flied out in the ninth in his fifth and final at-bat.
The third baseman admitted he figured out he was close to the cycle "a little bit later."
"It's not usually something that I have to think about too much," he said. "It was a new experience for me today to be close."