Posted on February 12, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
On the eve of pitchers and catchers officially reporting to spring training, the Miami Marlins made a last-minute signing. On Tuesday, the Fish agreed to a one-year deal with veteran reliever Sergio Romo. Romo will make a base salary of $2.5 million plus incentives for the 2019 season. Miami’s hope is that a veteran like Romo can help anchor their bullpen as they continue to rebuild with a young roster.
Romo, who will turn 36 next month, is no longer the elite closer he was back when he helped the Giants win three World Series titles in a five-year span. However, he proved last year with the Tampa Bay Rays that he still belongs in the big leagues. Romo earned 25 saves and eight holds in 2018 while posting a 4.14 ERA. He also started five games as the Rays experimented with using as their top relievers as “openers.” Those numbers came on the heels of Romo posting a 1.47 ERA during the second half of 2017 with the Rays. Based on the last year and a half, Romo would appear to have something left in the tank.
Whether Romo is given the chance to be Miami’s closer remains to be seen. The Marlins, as a team, only had 30 saves last season. Ten of those saves came from Brad Ziegler, who is now retired, while another 10 came from Kyle Barraclough, who was traded to the Nationals earlier this offseason. That would seem to leave the closer’s job open heading into spring training.
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The Marlins appear to have a trio of young relievers who they may want to audition for the closer’s job in Adam Conley, Drew Steckenrider, and Tayron Guerrero. None have much experience finishing games, although all showed some promise in high-leverage situations last season. However, the overall lack of experience in the bullpen has had the Marlins searching for a veteran reliever most of the offseason.
“I think a veteran bullpen piece, just to help with Steck and Conley and Guerrero at the back end, is something we’re exploring right now,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said prior to the club adding Romo.
In Romo, the Marlins have what could be an ideal veteran to complement their younger arms. He’s capable of being a closer if needed but won’t be expecting to be handed the job at this point in his career. Pitching in Miami’s rather expansive ballpark could also prove beneficial for Romo, who did give up a few too many home runs last year. On the other hand, Romo can still throw hard and averaged better than a strikeout per inning last year.
In a perfect world, Romo would earn the closer’s job in spring training. He could help the Marlins bring along their younger relievers without throwing them in the fire right away. Meanwhile, Romo could enhance his value with an eye toward a midseason trade when the Marlins inevitably fall out of contention. At that point, one of Miami’s other relievers may be more prepared to take over as the closer. Obviously, there is no guarantee that things play out that way. But the signing of Romo has a chance to be a fruitful one for the Marlins.