ARLINGTON — The Giants finally locked down an upgrade for their rotation.
Reds right-hander Mike Leake was acquired late Thursday night for two minor leaguers: highly-touted right-hander Keury Mella and third baseman Adam Duvall. Leake, 27, is 9-5 with a 3.56 ERA this season and has been one of the National League's best pitchers in July, going 4-1 with a 1.25 ERA in five starts.
“There was a very small list of guys who we thought could have an impact on our rotation and Mike was part of that list. We’re very fortunate to get him,” general manager Bobby Evans said. “It’s just a good fit for us in terms of getting a control pitcher who isn’t going to overpower guys but he’s going to be able to go out there and be consistent and give us a chance to win every time he goes out.”
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The Giants have spent weeks searching for another top-of-the-rotation type to slot in behind Madison Bumgarner, but they came up short on Cole Hamels and David Price. In Leake, they’re adding an athletic right-hander who they expect to thrive at AT&T Park. Leake has a 2.59 ERA in five career appearances in San Francisco and long has been a favorite of Giants executives and scouts. Evans noted that he should get a boost once he gets out of Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, a notorious hitters park.
“We looked at our options and he was on the top of our list early on,” Evans said. “It’s just for this year and it’s a bit of a rental of course, but we really like what his makeup is. We’ve followed him since college. We felt he would slot right in and give us an opportunity to get deeper into games. He’s done that this year with the Reds and we felt like the depth would really help us.”
The Leake move will lead to some significant roster changes, and Evans said he spoke with veteran right-hander Tim Hudson and his agent to give them a heads-up that a deal was coming. Hudson will be pulled from the rotation, but the Giants haven’t committed to putting him the bullpen as they did with Ryan Vogelsong. Team officials have worried in the past that Hudson, at 40 years old, takes too long to warm up to be a reliever. Evans said any further moves involving Hudson will be discussed by manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti. Hudson was said to have taken the news in stride.
“He ultimately wants to see this club excel and have success and win,” Evans said. “He will do whatever it takes. I’ll let him speak for himself, but he told me he’d like to do whatever it takes to make sure that happens in whatever role.”
Leake will be a free agent at the end of the season, but some in the organization have talked in the past of getting him in a Giants uniform and hoping he falls in love with the franchise and the city. A similar approach worked with Hunter Pence, who passed up a chance at free agency in 2013 and instead signed a five-year deal with the Giants. Regardless of how the deadline played out, Leake was going to be a target in the offseason.
“Having him in-house will certainly give us an advantage and an early read on whether he likes it here and has interest in staying,” Evans said.
The move came at a high price, and Evans acknowledged that he gave up a good prospect in Mella, a 21-year-old who many talent evaluators around the game believed was the top prospect in the Giants organization. He has a 3.31 ERA in 16 starts for High-A San Jose, with 83 strikeouts in 81 2/3 innings.
“He represented us in the Futures Game and he’s come a long way,” Evans said. “He continues to advance and pitch well. We knew there would be a high price and it would cost us some talent. At the same time, (starting pitching is) an area where we have a little bit of depth.”
The Giants have four starting pitchers signed for next season and have spent their past two first-round picks on pitchers Tyler Beede and Phil Bickford. They’re also set at third base with Matt Duffy, and that meant Duvall never got a look in the big leagues. The 26-year-old leads the Pacific Coast League with 26 homers but the Giants don’t believe he can handle third base defensively at the big league level. Duvall hit .192 in 73 big-league at-bats last season.
“I’m excited for Adam to get an opportunity,” Evans said. “He deserves an opportunity. I’m hoping he gets it there in Cincinnati.”