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Mariners bolster staff, get RHP Mike Leake from Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Mike Leake throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

SEATTLE (AP) — The Mariners acquired right-hander Mike Leake from the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday in exchange for minor-league infielder Rayder Ascanio as Seattle tries to bolster its beleaguered starting rotation during the AL wild-card race.

The Mariners are without James Paxton, Felix Hernandez and Hisahi Iwakuma due to injuries and have struggled to get five innings out of their starters for most of the past month. Seattle has had just 16 starts of at least six innings in 43 games since the All-Star break.

Seattle started the day on a four-game losing streak and has fallen three games behind Minnesota in the chase for the second wild card spot.

"This is as much about the next three, potentially four years as it's about this next four or five weeks," Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "Obviously, we feel like Mike helps us walking in the door for 2017. But the chance to acquire a guy that is going to be pitching his 30-year-old season next year and get some controllable pitching in the door with a history of durability like Mike has for us was a huge concern going into the offseason and something we were able to address in August."

Leake has been one of the most durable starters in the National League but has not been at his best since the All-Star break. Leake is 7-12 with a 4.21 ERA for the season, but since the break is 1-5 with a 6.90 ERA in nine starts since July 14.

Dipoto said the plan is for Leake to make his first start for Seattle sometime this weekend when the club returns home to play Oakland.

"His first 10 starts were spectacular. Obviously his last 10 have not been great for him," Dipoto said. "Like a lot of guys you go through highs and lows through a season and in Mike's case we're going to bet on the big picture."

This was the second trade between the clubs this summer. Seattle previously traded for Marco Gonzales, who has been part of the rotation struggles for the Mariners.

Seattle also acquired cash and $750,000 in international slot money as part of the deal.

Leake is not a short-term rental. He is under contract through the 2020 season with an option for 2021. Leake signed an $80 million, five-year deal before the 2016 season. The cash coming back from St. Louis was a significant factor in the decision to go through with the trade, although Dipoto declined to specify the amount being sent by the Cardinals.

"The contribution the Cardinals made was both significant and made us feel good about the price point," Dipoto said. "And the way we viewed it is if Mike Leake is a 30-year-old free agent and we were able to achieve this deal with him we would feel comfortable signing him to that contract. It was a real consideration and a strong factor in what led us to doing this deal."

Ascanio, 21, split time this season between Single-A Clinton and Single-A Modesto with a brief stint at Triple-A Tacoma. He was batting. 217 with 25 doubles, nine home runs and 44 RBIs. The Cardinals will assign him to Single-A Palm Beach.

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