On Friday, the Cardinals and Blue Jays finalized their second trade of the offseason. The most recent deal sent outfielder Randal Grichuk north of the border and right-handed pitchers Conner Greene and Dominic Leone to the Gateway City.
Greene, 22 years old, started 25 games for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 2017, while Leone served as a very dependable arm out of Toronto’s bullpen. The Cardinals are hopeful Leone can serve them in the same manner.
Drafted in 2012, the 26-year-old Leone has big-league experience with the Mariners, Diamondbacks, and most recently - and with the most success - the Blue Jays. In 65 games, Leone pitched 70 1/3 innings with a 2.56 ERA. His 10.36 K/9 is the second-highest rate among American League relief pitchers with at least 70 innings, trailing only Chris Devenski (11.16) of the World Series champion Astros.
Leone was also successful at keeping the ball in the yard, even with the highest fly ball percentage (42) to this point in his career. His 0.77 HR/9 was greater than only three AL relievers with a minimum of 70 frames: Alex Claudio of the Rangers (0.34), Mike Minor of the Royals (0.58), and Bryan Shaw, then of the Indians (0.59).
From several statistical perspectives, the 2017 season was the best of Leone’s career. Leone pitched more innings than he ever had, whiffed more batters, had his lowest walk percentage (8.2), and opponents combined to hit just .199 against him, even though he pitched in the slugging-infested American League East. His success comes after treading through various levels of multiple systems; Leone’s list of transactions goes on for scrolls.
Leone joins a bullpen that looks significantly different than it did at this point last year, about five weeks from the first Spring Training game. Subtracting Trevor Rosenthal, Seung Hwan Oh, and Kevin Siegrist, the team will open the season with offseason-signee Luke Gregerson as the closer. Matt Bowman will return for his third year of work after being selected in the Rule 5 draft, and Sam Tuivailala - out of options and with a solid slate of work last year - seems poised to finally get a spot in the Opening Day bullpen. John Brebbia, a surprisingly durable arm to come out of Memphis in late May, will get a chance to prove himself in a full season, and left-handers Tyler Lyons and Brett Cecil will garner their usual late-inning work.
Bowman was tied for seventh in baseball with 75 appearances, just four games off the sport-leading load of 79 games appeared in by Kansas City’s Peter Moylan and Shaw, now with the Rockies. Cecil appeared in the third-most games among lefty relievers, with Dan Jennings entering 77 games and Jerry Blevins 75, for the Rays and Mets, respectively.
Leone enters the equation and gives manager Mike Matheny another durable arm to work with. Leone proved he could produce on consecutive days, as he pitched in back-to-back games 13 times. Shall Matheny trust him, this will spread the work load a bit more evenly.
Pitchers and catchers report to camp on February 13 - three weeks from this Tuesday!
The video is credited to the official Major League Baseball YouTube channel.