While the Mariners, as expected, weren’t able to get any of the big names from the Angels’ bonanza of waiver wire releases, they didn’t come away totally empty-handed, picking up reliever Dominic Leone off waivers. The 31-year-old is no stranger to moving clubhouses, as the Mariners will be his third team this season alone, and his eighth organization—although this is also a full-circle move for Leone, who was originally drafted by the Mariners way back in 2012 and made his MLB debut in 2014 with the club.
Like many relievers, Leone has scraped out a lengthy MLB career by the twin virtues of being healthy and mostly effective over a near decade of service. Leone’s best year came in 2017, when he struck out nearly a third of batters faced after having been picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays off waivers, but he’s never quite recaptured that brilliance. The issue for Leone throughout his career has been command, but he’s also had issues at times with giving up homers, something that shouldn’t be as much of an issue in capacious T-Mobile Park.
How the Mariners plan to fix Leone’s command problems is a less easily-answered question, as he’s run a double-digit BB% for the past five seasons. Some of that might be related to trying to avoid the heart of the plate, where his pitches get crushed: his fastball, which averages around 95 mph, holds batters to a batting average of around .200—unless they barrel it up, in which case it gets obliterated (.500 SLG). Similarly, Leone’s slider is a huge whiff-getting weapon, but since he doesn’t throw it in the zone much, it’s not as tempting to batters who are able to wait it out for the fastball or the cutter, which batters have hit well this season, leading to unfavorable counts and free passes. All this makes it unclear how Leone will fit in on a Mariners pitching staff that is allergic to giving up walks. But who knows, the complex pitching philosophy of “throw this pitch here and that pitch there” has been surprisingly effective with other bullpen rehab candidates, so maybe there’s yet another act for Leone’s career ahead in Seattle.
To make room for Leone, the Mariners DFA’d Devin Sweet, who only got a couple of major-league innings but wasn’t able to miss bats or deploy his weapons-grade changeup against major-league hitters. Sweet will more than likely clear waivers and return to Seattle’s organization where they can keep working with the 26-year-old HBCU product to make sure that his next bite at the big-league apple is a little more satisfying.