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MLB trade rumors: Reds 'prepared to trade' starter Mike Leake

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Johnny Cueto is a hotter commodity this July, but Leake may be a more realistic trade option for the Tigers.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

With a 40-47 record and a 15 1/2 game deficit in the National League Central, the Cincinnati Reds are an easy pick to sell at the trade deadline. Things were briefly put on hiatus while Cincinnati hosted the MLB All-Star Game -- selling off stars beforehand would likely have dulled the fanbase's excitement -- but the Reds are now ready to deal, reports Jon Morosi of Fox Sports.

Starting pitcher Johnny Cueto is the big name that has been bandied about in trade rumors this summer, but righthander Mike Leake will also likely be on the move. A 27-year-old who is approaching free agency at the end of the season, Leake is 7-5 with a 3.95 ERA in 120 2/3 innings this season. He has a rather pedestrian 2.45 strikeout-to-walk ratio, resulting in a 4.10 FIP, but is allowing less than a hit per inning.

Throughout his career, Leake has been an underrated piece in the Reds' rotation. He is 60-47 with a 3.92 ERA in just over 1,000 career innings and has consistently eaten a solid amount of innings. From 2012 to 2014, Leake pitched 585 2/3 innings, making at least 30 starts in each season.

An undersized starter at just 5'10", Leake's body of work is reminiscent of former Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello. Leake has struck out just 16.3 percent of batters he has faced in his career, but has a career 50.2 percent ground ball rate. Like Porcello, Leake does a good job of limiting walks. He has issued 2.46 walks per nine innings this season, the highest rate of his career.

Acquiring Leake alone would be far cheaper than picking up Johnny Cueto, but the Tigers (and other teams) may be looking to make a bigger move. The Reds reportedly don't want to package Cueto and closer Aroldis Chapman in the same deal, but Chapman and Leake could presumably be moved together. Leake is a free agent at the end of the season, but Chapman has one more year of club control remaining in 2016. MLB Trade Rumors estimates that Chapman's salary could rise into the $11 to $12 million range in his final year of arbitration.

Chapman has arguably been the most dominant closer in baseball since his major league debut in 2010. He has a 2.23 ERA and 495 strikeouts in 290 career innings, and is coming off of his fourth consecutive All-Star appearance. Chapman is 18 for 19 in save opportunities this season and has only blown three saves since the start of 2014.