With the internet debate raging over whether the Detroit Tigers should buy or sell at this year's MLB trade deadline, we may finally have our answer. Bob Nightengale of the USA Today reports that the Tigers have Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Mike Leake "on their radar," but only if they "can realistically stay in the AL wild-card race."
Whether or not you believe the Tigers are actually in said wild card race -- they're 4 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins for the second spot at the moment -- the Tigers have given little indication that they are going to sell at this year's deadline. There have been rumors, including a major one from Nightengale himself, but everything Dave Dombrowski and company has said over the past couple weeks indicates that the team will still make a push for a playoff bid.
If the Tigers are truly buying, Leake is a decent place to start. The 27-year-old righthander is 8-5 with a 3.70 ERA in 20 starts for the Reds this season. He has a 3.94 FIP and 2.64 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 128 2/3 innings, and is holding opponents to under a hit per inning on the year. Leake has a career 3.90 ERA and 4.18 FIP in 162 career starts, and will be a free agent after the 2015 season.
Leake was one starter that we identified as a possible target for the Tigers earlier this month. He is a solid upgrade over the current back end of the rotation, and as a rental, will not cost nearly as much as similar starters -- San Diego's Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross come to mind -- with more team control remaining. Given his age and the saturated starting pitching market coming up this offseason, Leake may also be a reasonable extension candidate, which would help soften the blow of losing David Price to free agency.
Leake doesn't strikeout many batters, with just 87 punch outs in 128 2/3 innings this season. He does a good job of limiting walks, though, and has induced ground balls at a 52 percent clip this season. If acquired, Leake would replace Buck Farmer at the back of the rotation. Farmer, who was called up on Monday, was named the Tigers' starter on Friday evening against the Baltimore Orioles.