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The St. Louis Cardinals moved to address their rotation opening with free agent right-hander Mike Leake.

The St. Louis Cardinals moved to address their rotation opening with free agent right-hander Mike Leake.

Earlier this winter, the St. Louis Cardinals said goodbye to starting pitcher John Lackey and lost Lance Lynn for the 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery. They tried to sign free agent David Price but lost out to the Boston Red Sox.

They addressed the rotation need on Tuesday via an agreement with free agent pitcher Mike Leake on a five-year contract worth $80 million, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  The deal also includes full no-trade protection and a mutual option that could increase the total value to the $93-$94 million range.

The former Cincinnati Reds starter was even more appealing to the Cardinals because there are no penalties attached. Leake did not receive a qualifying offer and a loss of first-round draft pick attached to his signing because he was traded to the San Francisco Giants last season.

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Leake, a California native who was a first-round draft pick from Arizona State University, is a durable and effective mid-rotation starter. Despite pitching in hitter-friendly Cincinnati most of his career, he has logged three straight seasons with an ERA under 3.75 and an average of 2.0 WAR while pitching at least 190 innings. The 28-year-old is a control pitcher who keeps the ball on the ground, two capabilities especially valued by the Cardinals. Over his considerable time in the Central Division, Leake provides the specific benefit of good prior results against division rivals Chicago (3.15 ERA) and Pittsburgh (3.01) and success at Busch Stadium (3.19).

Though the Cardinals need additional offense as well, the club seemed more immediately focused on finding value in a pitching-heavy market. Whether the club is through with its off-season moves remains to be seen. Other potential areas of focus, whether via free agency or trade, could be the bullpen and a first baseman or right fielder. Young pitching could be offered in trade.

With this signing, the Cardinals have 38 spots filled on their 40-man roster.

For more roster detail

Remember that to see the entire Cardinals system from the Dominican Summer League to St. Louis in one graphical view with all transactions, free agents and more, check out the Roster Matrix, kept updated at The Cardinal Nation Blog.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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