Mariner pitching has been going through a bad case of the Late 90's, allowing 7.3 runs per game the past eight games. With the schedule entering a difficult two month stretch, and this arguably being the best (and perhaps only) true window of contention with the Cano/Seager/Cruz core, the Mariners find themselves in desperate need of pitching reinforcements.
If there is one characteristic that has remained constant during Jerry Dipoto's brief tenure as General Manager, it has been boldness. Regardless of public perception, or industry consensus, he has not hesitated to act swiftly when he decides on a course of action. We saw it with the early Winter trades of Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, Tom Wilhelmsen, and others. We saw it with the acquisition of Norichika Aoki, Joaquin Benoit, Steve Cishek, and many others. Recently, and possibly most controversially, the team moved its top prospect, Edwin Diaz to the bullpen.
It was clearly a decision made with the short term in mind. No one knows if Diaz would have succeeded as a starter in the major leagues, however, industry consensus generally dictates you allow a starter to fail before converting a player to relief. The Mariners did not wait for Diaz to fail, in fact he was doing just fine as a twenty-two year old in double A. Nonetheless, he was switched to relief, and allowing him to focus on max effort with his fastball and slider have proven lethal to the poor Southern League. In ten games Diaz has thrown 11.2 innings, with a 16/2 K/BB ratio. With the pitching struggles of the past week, the Mariners once again are acting quickly:
Roster move coming: Edwin Diaz will be called up to the Mariners and take Cody Martin's place on the roster— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) June 4, 2016
Diaz brings a 70 grade fastball that touches triple digits, with a 60 grade slider with sharp, two plane movement. His lower 3/4 arm slot should make him a terror, particularly for right-handed hitters. His delivery also allows for above average deception and can be disruptive to the hitter's timing.
Summary: In a bullpen largely consisting of older, lower velocity relievers, Diaz give the team a potential hammer, and is immediately the top candidate to be called in in any situation where a strike out is desperately needed.
It's an exciting move, and one filled with immense possibility. If you view this essentially as the team swapping out Joel Peralta for Diaz it looks like a massive upgrade. Baseball Prospectus author and general smart-about-baseball-person Chris Crawford has even gone as far to say the following:
All due respect to Joaquin Benoit, but Edwin Diaz is the Mariners best reliever right now.— Christopher Crawford (@CVCrawfordBP) June 4, 2016
I have no idea how Diaz adjusts to the major leagues. I do know that he will bring arguably the best pure stuff on staff into a bullpen thinned by injury, and gives the team its best chance to find the lockdown reliever that shortens games and creeps into the psyche of opposing teams that trail in the fifth inning and beyond.
It's a gutsy, risky, possibly slightly reckless track that Dipoto and company have put Diaz on. They have once again zigged as baseball zagged, by pushing their best pitching prospect into a relief role. They are having him skip AAA entirely. It could easily go up in flames. It could easily "be flames", as the kids say. The only thing I know is that Edwin Diaz will be in Texas tonight, and that I'll be watching, and hoping, that the Mariners have found their next great relief pitcher.