A funny thing happened when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim put nearly their entire 2023 trade deadline splurge on waivers. That cast of characters included a possible frontline starter (Lucas Giolito), two relief arms (Reynaldo Lopez, Matt Moore), some platoon-type bats (Randall Grichuk, Hunter Renfroe), and Dominic Leone. The latter was a Mariner in the Jack Z. era and was supposed to provide the 2023 Mariners with a quality multi-inning skill set. Well, the results are in, and they are horrific.
Granted, manager Scott Servais often utilizes Leone in games the team is behind. However, how do you instill confidence in a struggling offense failing to get the big hit in September? You bring in a pitcher to stop the bleeding. A pitcher giving up 12.6% barrel rate since joining a playoff contender isn't it. Nor is a pitcher who immediately gives up dingers.
If you watched the Mariners' performance against the National League West champion Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend, you saw that concept in full effect. The Dodgers got the big hit but, more importantly, utilized relievers who could stomp a possible rally. A guy is toiling in the Mariners farm system who can go multiple innings, has swing-and-miss stuff, and is ready to take the ball in a critical 13-game stretch to the finish. Since September 1st this reliever is absolutely shoving.
Those stats are from Tacoma Rainiers closer, Riley O'Brien. Playoff baseball needs pitchers with swing-and-miss in their tool bag (53 IP - 82 K), who don't give up dingers (two homers all season) and can strand runners (72%). Tacoma isn't making the playoffs this season, so there isn't a built-in narrative that O'Brien needs to be there for the ride to the championship. He's also older, which means emotionally he's ready for the ride of his life in Seattle.
Having Dominic Leone back in the Seattle, where it all started 12 years ago, was a great story. But in fact, it is just that a story. It's time to call the 28-year-old O'Brien to serve as the bridge between the starters and high-leverage relievers. Chances are, he'll atleast help Servais stop the bleeding.