ARLINGTON, Texas — A trade that they tried to work out in the first week of June was revisited and finalized just before the Major League Baseball trade deadline.
After shopping him during the offseason and re-intensifying those efforts in late May, the Mariners have finally traded veteran right-hander Mike Leake.
In a potential deal that was discussed during early June, the Mariners sent Leake and cash considerations to be $10 million to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for infielder Jose Caballero.
Leake, who lives in the Deer Valley suburb of Phoenix and played at Arizona State, was happy to waive his no-trade clause for a chance to go home.
“It’s one team I definitely I wanted to say ‘yes’ to above Seattle,” he said. “I grew up a Mariners fan so it’s in my heart. But going home to Arizona is definitely a chance of a lifetime.”
The news broke of the trade after the deadline and the Mariners and Diamondbacks walked it right up to the deadline to get their deal completed.
“As you guys know, we had to talked to the Diamondbacks as far back as May, but we really hadn’t revisited it a whole lot,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “But it picked up with less than 20 minutes left to the deadline. Rumor has it that we clicked send and confirmed the deal with everybody with about 68 seconds left.”
Following his start on Tuesday night at Globe Life Park, Leake said he didn’t think he’d be traded after some potential deals being discussed earlier that day had fallen through.
But once the Diamondbacks decided to send ace Zack Greinke to the Astros for a monster package of four solid prospects, they needed to fill a rotation slot. Acquiring Leake gives them a proven starter that they know will take the ball every fifth day and give them 30 starts a season.
Leake, 31, was 9-8 with a 4.34 ERA with 100 strikeouts and 19 walks in 22 starts with the Mariners this season.
“I didn’t really know until about 15 minutes before the deadline,” he said. “Once they were able to get rid of Greinke, it kind of opened some things up.”
Leake has lived with the possibility of being traded all season after the team tried to move him in the offseason.
With the team in rebuild mode and looking to remove guaranteed Major League contracts, he seemed like a logical candidate.
His relationship with manager Scott Servais and the coaching staff was icy at best.
A fiery competitor, Leake hated being removed from games prematurely.
On one occasion last season, he handed the ball to catcher Mike Zunino instead of Servais, who came to remove him — something that’s considered an insult.
There was also some frustration after a start on May 26 in Oakland.
With Servais having already been ejected, Leake was irritated when bench coach Manny Acta came to the mound to remove him from the game.
He gave Acta a shoulder bump as he left the mound, which angered Acta, Servais and the Mariners front office.
Leake later made comments about the direction of the team and stepback plan following the game and the following Monday in Seattle.
Shortly after talking with the Times, the Mariners brought Leake into a meeting with Servais, Acta and general manager Jerry Dipoto. It got a little contentious.
If there was any lingering hesitation about trading Leake, it was gone with that meeting.
In the days leading up to his start on June 5 where he threw a complete game vs. the Astros, the Mariners were trying to finish a deal that would’ve sent Leake to the Diamondbacks.
The framework of the deal was supposedly largely in place and Leake was going to be scratched from his scheduled start.
The Mariners knew he would waive his no-trade clause for a chance to go home.
However, the deal was scuttled. Multiple MLB sources said Mariners’ ownership squashed the deal, not liking the timing or the financial commitments being made.
But it was clear that both sides were ready for a change.
“I hadn’t heard of anything about a trade,” he said after that game. “But I understand it.”
Caballero, who turns 23 on Aug. 30, has .268/.388/.396 slash line with 12 doubles, three home runs, 12 RBI, 24 walks and 38 stolen bases in 43 games with High-A Visalia this season.
He was named a Mid-Season California League All-Star, but has been on the 7-day injured list with a wrist injury, but is scheduled to play for the Arizona Rookie League Mariners on Thursday night in a rehab stint.
He’s expected to join High A Modesto in about a week. He was originally a seventh-round pick in the 2017 MLB draft out of Chipola College in Florida.
“He had just actually been released to start playing,” Dipoto said. “Oddly enough he was the guy we were discussing with them then. We like Caballero. He’s an athletic guy, plays as good shortstop and has hit at all the levels to this point.”
The Mariners will have to fill Leake’s spot in the rotation. With off days today, Monday and next Thursday, they can be creative with what they do.
Manager Scott Servais mentioned top pitching prospects Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield, who are both pitching well for Class AA Arkansas and expected to join the team by the end of the season.
“Certainly we’ve got guys throwing well at the minor league level, including guys at Double A,” manager Scott Servais said. “Sheffield and Dunn, our high-end prospect guys are there. Whether they are ready or not or the timing of that, Jerry hasn’t discussed that with me or anything about it.”
Dunn pitched on Tuesday night for Arkansas while Sheffield is scheduled to pitch Thursday for the Travelers.
Sheffield is on the 40-man roster while Dunn is not, but the Mariners currently have three open spots on the 40-man though one of them is expected to be filled by a reliever in the coming days.