The Boston Red Sox are rumored to have an interest in signing free-agent right-handed reliever Sergio Romo to bolster their bullpen.
While most of the emphasis has been on who the Boston Red Sox will ship out in an effort to shed payroll this offseason, the roster still has holes that must be filled. The bullpen is one area in need of an upgrade and the relief pitcher market is where a team on a strict budget can find value.
One affordable option is Sergio Romo. According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the Red Sox are one of several teams interested in the veteran right-hander.
Romo has long been one of the more underappreciated late-inning relievers. He won’t light up the radar gun with a fastball that has averaged a tick under 89 mph for his career and has dipped closer to the mid-80s in recent years.
Without an overpowering four-seam fastball in his arsenal, Romo relies more on his sinker-slider combo. He hasn’t needed elite velocity to produce strong strikeout numbers, posting a career 10.0 K/9. Romo does a fine job of limiting walks with a career 2.1 BB/9 and typically manages to keep the ball in the park with a career 1.0 HR/9 rate.
Romo is coming off a strong season in which he posted a 3.43 ERA in 60 1/3 innings split between the Miami Marlins and Minnesota Twins. He racked up 17 saves while Miami showcased him as their closer leading up to the trade deadline. The Twins already had a closer in Taylor Rogers but Romo tallied three rouge saves while serving as a reliable setup option down the stretch for Minnesota.
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One trait that may be a concern is Romo’s propensity for fly balls. His 45 percent Fly Ball rate was the 23rd-highest among MLB relievers last season and his career rate stands at an above-average 42 percent. Being a fly ball pitcher didn’t come back to bite him often during his stints in pitcher-friendly ballparks in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, Miami, and Minnesota. Fenway isn’t a homer-happy park but the Green Monster in left field provides an inviting target for fly balls. The AL East also has a few other stadiums known to be launching pads for the long ball.
Romo has always been able to locate his pitches well so his sharp command should help limit the damage on fly balls regardless of the venue. A change in his environment could lead to some regression from his elite 9.2 HR/FB rate though, which is a factor that must be considered when considering his fit with the Red Sox.
Brandon Workman has earned the right to enter 2020 as the frontrunner for the closer seat but if he fails to recapture the magic of his breakout campaign then Romo’s experience provides a proven fallback option. If Workman continues to thrive, they’ll still need to strengthen the bridge leading to the ninth inning and Romo can help in that role.
Romo has been a modest bargain at only $2.5 million in each of the last two seasons. He’ll turn 37 years old before Opening Day so he shouldn’t expect a multi-year deal for much more than that.
His proven track record and affordable salary should put Romo squarely on the radar for a Red Sox club that needs to improve their pitching staff on a budget.