The average fan might not have noticed them immediately. They sort of dress like businessmen skipping the afternoon to take in a ballgame. Their notebooks and charts aren’t always dead giveaways. And with reliability of stadium radar guns and tracking data, there is no reason to carry portable radar guns to these games, which always used to be the great identifier.

Within the larger than expected crowd of 28,163 — a solid afternoon showing for a team going nowhere slowly in the final months of the season — scouts were here.

Sprinkled into the middle section of seats right behind home plate of T-Mobile Park, a handful of rows back from the luxuries of the diamond club, were at least eight professional scouts from various teams. With the July 31 trade deadline now a week away, these well-traveled baseball lifers representing the Yankees, Red Sox, Nationals and others were in Seattle to scout available talent.

Wednesday afternoon’s starting pitching matchup featured a player most of their organizations would happily add to their rotations but doesn’t want to be traded, against a pitcher who wants to be a traded from a struggling team looking to trade him.

In the end, the pitcher who would be viewed as a consolation prize to most suitors outdueled the coveted one in the Mariners’ 5-3 victory over the Rangers.

Mariners right-hander Mike Leake, who has made it known often that he would prefer to find a new organization, pitched seven innings, allowing three runs on nine hits with no walks and seven strikeouts to win his second straight start and improve to 9-8. He’s 6-2 in his past eight decisions and has pitched seven-plus innings, allowing three runs or fewer in three of his past four starts.


Meanwhile, Rangers lefty Mike Minor, who is viewed as one of the top starters available on the trade market, pitched six innings, allowing five runs on eight hits — including a pair of Daniel Vogelbach solo homers — with a walk and five strikeouts. He’s allowed four runs or more in his past three outings. He’s still got a 3.00 ERA and 136 strikeouts in 135 innings pitched.

It’s an interesting contrast. Leake knows that the trade deadline is looming. He knows the Mariners’ plans for the future and realizes he isn’t a part of them. He’s been open about being moved on multiple occasions.  Minor has been less than enthusiastic about being traded after signing a two-year, $19 million contract with the Rangers this offseason.

Asked if he felt like he’s auditioning for teams, Leake was candid.

“I feel like I’ve been auditioning all year just because they were trying to trade me in the offseason for a little bit,” he said. “I definitely think I’m on the radar.”

It’s a familiar situation. As a member of the Reds in 2015, he was traded to the Giants at the deadline. And after signing as a free agent with Cardinals before the 2016 season, he was traded to the Mariners in August of 2017 during the waiver trade period. Both times he was traded, he expected it. The contract he signed with the Cardinals had a no-trade clause, meaning he had to approve the deal to Seattle.

“Unfortunately and fortunately I’ve been traded and kind of moved around the last few years,” he said. “It has given me the wherewithal to know what to do in circumstances like this.”


While players will check Twitter and MLB Trade Rumors multiple times a day to see about their possible fate, Leake tries to block it out.

“My agent and my wife will do that,” he said. “My agent will text me or my wife will tell me.”

Leake is scheduled to start again July 30, one day before the deadline, against the same Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. Given his no-trade clause and his need to approve the deal and many decisions going right up to the 1 p.m. PT deadline on July 31, Leake expects to take the mound for his next start.

Asked if there were any reservations to make him exercise the no-trade clause and nix a deal, Leake said there were no automatic deal-breakers. He’d prefer to play closer to the West Coast and his home in Arizona and he’d prefer to go to a team that trains in Arizona during the spring. But none of those aspects are mandatory. A team with a real postseason hopes for this year and next — the length of his contract — are also ideal.

“I will always look at it as what’s best for me and my family,” he said.

And if it doesn’t happen?

“I’m happy here,” he said. “There’s definitely things I would like to see different or head in a different direction, so we’ll see.”


After discussing a potential trade with the Diamondbacks in early June — a move that Leake would’ve readily welcomed, but was scuttled by Mariners ownership — there has been minimal interest from other teams.

Seattle knows that it would have to eat some of the remainder of the $16 million salary owed to Leake this season and the $15 million owed in 2020. As part of the trade to acquire him, St. Louis paid $5 million of the salary this season and $4 million next season. There is also a $5 million buyout for a mutual option in 2021. Even with the Cardinals’ contributions, it’s still a significant amount of dollars. But the Mariners have shown they’ll take minimal salary relief on trades this season. They also know that Leake won’t generate a massive prospect return. But they seem determined to move him now or this offseason and open up a spot for prospects like Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn.

Leake’s true value is in quantity and not dominance. He’s a reliable innings-eater that thrives in the back of the rotation. The pitchers most coveted near the deadline are front-line starters that can change playoff series. Minor, Arizona’s Robbie Ray and San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner are those type of arms.

But both the Diamondbacks and Giants are still not without playoff possibilities in the muddled National League wild card race. The Mariners hope that teams, particularly those in the NL, desperate for pitching depth will gain interest in Leake as the deadline nears. The decision to buy or sell for a few teams could happen in the next few days. The Rangers, once an outside contender for a second wild card, have seen their status fall to sellers. Losing a series to the Mariners helped solidify it.

Leake’s recent performance is more impressive considering his last outing was a one-hit shutout where he carried a perfect game into the ninth inning. And his start prior to that lasted just 2/3 of an inning — the worst of his career. Obviously, he wasn’t going to replicate that sort of success in this start, but he was better than expected. He held the Rangers scoreless for the first five innings, working out of trouble and helping himself with a few solid plays in the field.

Leake wiggled out of trouble in the first inning after Danny Santana’s one-out triple by snaring a comebacker and getting Santana in a rundown. In  the fourth, he allowed two singles to start the inning, but struck out Rougned Odor and got an inning-ending double play.


“Mike was really sharp early in the ballgame again today,” manager Scott Servais said. “Obviously there was a little bit more traffic and a few more hits off of him today, but he was really effective.”

Seattle broke the game open in the fifth inning, scoring four runs off Minor. Vogelbach started the surge with a laser of a leadoff homer into right field. Minor then allowed three straight singles for a run and J.P. Crawford later made it 4-0 with an RBI single up the middle.

Leake’s scoreless streak ended at 14 2/3 innings when he gave up back-to-back singles with two outs and then left a pitch up that Odor hammered for a three-run homer to cut the lead to 4-3.

“He made one mistake and that was to Odor,” Servais said of Leake. “And Odor has had a heck of series. He finds a way to get hits and hits them over the fence.”

Vogelbach got a run back in the sixth, blasting a towering solo homer to right-center. It was his 25th of the season and his second two-homer game of the homestand. He also hit two homers in Leake’s previous outing.

Leake exited after the seventh inning. Relievers Anthony Bass and Roenis Elias, another trade candidate, made the lead hold up. Bass worked a 1-2-3 eighth with a pair of strikeouts and Elias notched his 13th save with a 1-2-3 ninth.