Posted on February 9, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
Despite a slow offseason, relief pitchers continue to be the only players landing contracts. The latest to find a team is Sergio Romo. According to reports, Romo has agreed to a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. Financial terms of the deal are not yet known.
The soon-to-be 35-year old Romo returns to Tampa Bay after finishing last season with the Rays. He began the 2017 season with the Dodgers. However, things did not work out for Romo in Los Angeles. Despite a high strikeout rate, Romo struggled with his control and posted a 6.12 ERA in 30 appearances with the Dodgers. Eventually, the Dodgers game up on Romo and shipped to him to the Rays for cash in late July.
After he was traded to Tampa Bay, Romo immediately turned things around. he tossed 30.2 innings across 25 appearances for the Rays, posting a 1.47 ERA. After a nightmarish first half of the season, Romo quickly returned to being the pitcher he’s been for much of his career after his move to Tampa Bay. That should make the Rays optimistic that the aging Romo can continue to perform at a high level in 2018.
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Specifically, Romo figures to be Tampa’s primary setup man for closer Alex Colome. The Rays have lost several of their key relievers from last season to free agency over the winter. That list includes Brad Boxberger, Steve Cishek, Chase Whitley, and Tommy Hunter. The absence of those players leaves the Rays with little depth in front of Colome, making the presence of Romo vital to the success of their bullpen in 2018.
Bringing back Romo is also significant considering the trade rumors that have surrounded Colome in recent years. In all likelihood, Colome will be on the trade block again this summer. It’s also not out of the question that he’s traded before the start of the season. In either case, Romo would likely step in as Tampa’s closer. He previously served as a closer in San Francisco from 2012 to 2014, making him Tampa’s next best option to be a closer outside of Colome.
Of course, the addition of Romo may not make Tampa’s bullpen that much stronger. The Rays are still lacking in depth and experience outside of Colome and Romo. Dan Jennings is the only other proven veteran who will help out Romo in a setup role. The Rays are optimistic about younger pitchers like Andrew Kittredge and Jose Alvarado. Both showed promise last season but there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to replicate that success over a full season or handle a prominent role in the bullpen.
That being said, signing a pitcher like Romo is something the Rays had to do before the start of the season. The Rays have a rotation that could surprise people and keep them competitive in 2018. However, they also need a bullpen that can help them close out games. Adding Romo is a step in the right direction, even if Tampa’s bullpen still doesn’t appear to be a strength heading into spring training.