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Mariners Order Another Round, Pitch in a Lefty Too

Tom Wilhelmsen, the Bartender
The Mariners added two new arms after another frustrating loss last night - though one of the arms is a very familiar face. They signed RHP Tom Wilhelmsen off the free agent market, and acquired LHP Wade LeBlanc from the Blue Jays for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

Wilhelmsen will be in Detroit, but that's probably about it. Bob Dutton has all the gory roster rule details, but long story short Wilhelmsen must go through waivers to get sent down to Tacoma. He is a safe bet to pass through waivers, and once he does he will go down and open up a spot for a new pitcher on Friday, conveniently when the M's need a starter to cover for Taijuan Walker's bum heel. That starter seems likely to be LeBlanc.

Let's start with The Bartender. He was last seen in Safeco wielding a lethal power fastball, knee-buckling curve ball combination. Sometimes he struggled to throw the combination for strikes, but he had enough command to be a solid reliever overall with spectacular hot stretches. Wilhelmsen would easily be a bullpen upgrade if he was the pitcher last seen in Mariners blue.

The problem is that Wilhelmsen imploded in Texas. He gave up dingers on a quarter of his fly balls. He simply got annihilated every time he toed the rubber. Wilhelmsen's fastball velocity has not dropped much but it might be below whatever threshold allows him to be effective. There is a reason the Rangers cut him loose and that he is likely to pass through waivers. Still, Wilhelmsen has a good arm and a track record of success in Seattle. He's had a couple horrific months after six solid years. There are reasons to think this move could work out, and it comes at virtually no risk anyway.

Wade LeBlanc
LeBlanc is new to the Mariners but not new to Jerry DiPoto. He acquired LeBlanc as the Angels GM and now has acquired him again. LeBlanc is hardly a prospect at 31 years old, though he only has 446.2 innings in the majors (about 2 or 3 seasons worth). LeBlanc is a "pitchability" lefty, meaning he does not throw all that hard but makes do with command and deception. In fact, pitch f/x data suggests that LeBlanc's fastball sits in the 86-87mph range, which is rather slow by modern MLB standards. However, LeBlanc has never posted disastrous strikeout rates and is enjoying a terrific season in AAA thus far with an ERA under 2.00 as a starter. Still, LeBlanc is the definition of replacement level, though Safeco might do a nice job of hiding his weaknesses.

Frankly, these are moves that only happen when a team is desperate. The Mariners have a critically crippled pitching staff at the moment, one so crippled that nobody can reasonably complain about a lack of depth. They literally have over half of their pitching staff on the DL. These moves are the MLB equivalent of bailing water out of a sinking ship which is unfortunately what the Mariners need to do in the storm they find themselves in. Still, these are the kinds of players that for whatever reason Jack Zduriencik never acquired, and we watched some positions become black holes over the years. These are the kinds of moves the give teams a chance to whether particularly crushing stretches.