Mike Leake was traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Arizona Diamondbacks at the trade deadline, coming over with cash in exchange for prospect Jose Caballero. He made ten starts for the D-backs down the stretch, going 3-3 with a 4.35 ERA - that’s something of an improvement, considering his ERA was north of eight after his first four appearances. Leake was under contract for the 2020 season. But as Steve Gilbert first reported, and as has subsequently been confirmed by GM Mike Hazen, Leake will be opting out of the 2020 season.
The specific reasons have not been divulged. Hazen told Nick Piecoro, “I think those conversations are personal in nature.” But Leake issued the following statement through his agent:
Mike Leake is set to be a free agent after the 2020 season. Here is an explanation of his opting out from his agent, Danny Horwits. pic.twitter.com/dtlZm4OC5E— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 29, 2020
According to the agreement between players and owners, a player who opts out after being designated as high-risk by a team doctor, will still receive salary and service time. Some who might fall into that category would include the likes of Carlos Carrasco, diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia last year, or a number of players who have type 1 diabetes. However, those who opt out, not due to their own health conditions, but because they have high-risk members of family, do not have to be paid by their teams - the operating manual says this is optional.
For Leake, this is a very significant amount. He’s under contract for $15 million this year, and has an $18m option for 2021, with a $5m buyout. Though the D-backs are liable for only a small fraction, with the Mariners and Leake’s previous club, the Cardinals, paying the bulk of it. At the time of the trade, when Leake, Arizona were said to be obliged for only $6 million. Still, with purse-strings potentially tight for the next couple of years, due to the sharp drop in team revenue, it may be a case of a penny saved is a penny earned for the team. But it will also be interesting to see how many other players will follow Leake’s lead, and exercise their right to opt out of this weird season.