According to Jon Morosi, the Dodgers have agreed to a contract with free agent right-handed reliever Sergio Romo:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) February 4, 2017
MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez added that the contract is for one year, and that the deal is still pending a physical:
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) February 4, 2017
From a purely logical perspective, it seems like it’s not a bad move for the Dodgers (although the details of the contract remain to be seen). They needed to bolster their bullpen, and adding Romo certainly does that.
Romo, who will turn 34 in March, has always been a bit of a one-trick pony — he relies heavily upon his slider, especially against righties (whom he faces considerably more often than lefties). Per Brooks Baseball, over the past two seasons, Romo threw his slider 60.29% of the time, and 72.86% of the time against righties. It’s been an effective trick, though: batters whiffed on the pitch 21.36% of the time; righties whiffed 23.02% of the time.
Romo, who spent nearly three months on the disabled list last year dealing with a right elbow flexor strain, only pitched 30.2 innings for the Giants in 2016. Per Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles:
It is important to note, of course, that Romo was actually quite good last year, and that he reclaimed his magic slider toward the end of the season. He was one of the only Giants relievers worth a damn in that horrible September, even if he was also a part of the October sadness, too.
Over the past two seasons, Romo posted 104 strikeouts versus just 17 walks in 88 IP. His WHIP from 2015-’16 was a solid 1.068, and his ERA+ was a very good 138.
A potential cause for concern with Romo is that he saw a spike in home run rate last season. Historically, Romo hasn’t been very home run prone (save for his worst season, 2014, when he allowed a HR/9 of 1.40). In 2016, his HR/9 was 1.47. That’s five home runs allowed in 117 batters. It’s not a huge sample size, and it’s likely not something to get too worried about, especially if Romo returns to his usual career high ground ball/low fly ball rates.
If you were hoping to see Joe Blanton return next year, that now seems unlikely. Blanton and Romo profile fairly similarly (although Blanton is two years older), and Blanton likely would’ve filled a role like the one Romo will serve for the Dodgers: mid-late inning righty/potential setup man for Kenley Jansen. An argument in Blanton’s favor is his ability to pitch multiple innings, but one could also argue that doing so regularly led to him tiring out last year. Chad wrote in December about the pros and cons of Blanton coming back.
Now, if you care about the Dodgers/Giants rivalry, Romo being a Dodger may be a bit difficult to process. Romo, a lifelong Giant, never exactly went out of his way to endear himself to the Dodger fanbase. He’s also adored by Giants fans. If you’re feeling unsettled about this, just imagine how they feel right now. (Or just read the Brisbee piece linked above.)
For what it’s worth, Romo, a Southern California native, grew up a Dodger fan, and much of his family continued to support the Dodgers even after Romo became a Giant:
After the Giants drafted Romo, his family had a hard time cutting Dodger ties. In his rookie season, he left tickets for them, and the whole group showed up in Dodgers gear. Romo was chatting with his blue-clad family outside the clubhouse after a game when manager Bruce Bochy and GM Brian Sabean walked past, shaking their heads. Bochy gave Romo a piece of advice: “Let ’em know if they wear the other team’s colors, it’ll be the last ticket you’ll get from me.”
And there’s certainly a precedent for beloved Giants turning Dodgers. The most recent example is, of course, ol’ goofy beard himself, Brian Wilson, who pitched 13.2 mostly good innings for the Dodgers in late 2013, and 48.1 largely bad innings for them in 2014. A more historical example is Juan Marichal, who, as a Giant, once hit John Roseboro over the head with a bat, but ultimately finished his career with the Dodgers.
It’s okay to feel weird about now having to support a guy we’ve grown so accustomed to rooting against. But it’s a move that makes a lot of sense for the Dodgers, so take comfort in that if you’re having difficulty reconciling your feelings about it.