The Detroit Tigers need bats. You know it, I know it, the waiter sneaking a peek of the ball club from the top of The Detroit Athletic Club knows it.
As my mind wanders further down the path to what the 2021 season for the Detroit Tigers is going to look like and I am jotting down season projections, a number keeps coming back to the forefront of my mind: 850.
The average major league start is about 5 2/3 innings, which over the course of a full season is just a little short of 850 innings a team needs to receive from their cadre of starters. Where is new pitching coach Chris Fetter going to find 850 innings to provide for his boss AJ Hinch? He should be blowing up the phone to the big man Al Avila. The only reliable innings eating arm on this staff is Matthew Boyd and his struggles are well documented. Could Mike Leake be someone that Al Avila turns to on a one year prove-it deal for some stability and veteran leadership as the youngsters start to take hold and slowly build up their winnings count?
Mike Leake, 33 years of age, who decided to opt-out of the 2020 season due to the Covid 19 pandemic, is the epitome of average. He made his debut in 2010 with the Cincinnati Reds going straight to the majors after being drafted 8th overall the previous summer. A 2019 American League Gold Glove winner with the Seattle Mariners, the only award he has ever received, sports a career ERA of 4.04, 99 ERA+, 4.24 FIP. He doesn’t strike many batters out (6.1 K/9) nor does he issue many free passes (2.0 BB/9). He had an uptick in 2019 vs his career numbers in H/9 (10.4 vs 9.5) and HR/9 (1.9 vs 1.2) which probably played a part in The Arizona Diamondbacks deciding to pay him 5 million dollars to leave the desert rather than paying him 18 million for the 2021 campaign after acquiring him along with cash for an A-ball prospect at the trade deadline on July 31st 2019.
Should Al Avila swing and miss on Taijuan Walker who is rumored to be on his radar according to Jon Morosi, or some of the other arms available for a reasonable price and term, Mike Leake could be a fallback position on the type of one-year risk/reward contract the Tigers can afford to make and I feel strongly they should be making for the 2021 season.
Adding starter innings to the stable of Spencer Turnbull, Matthew Boyd, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and the other arms they have to decide how to deploy over the course of the 162 game marathon is a must. Just as big of a must as those position players we are all clamoring for if the team is to take any kind of meaningful step forward starting in April.