The Yankees head to the Winter Meetings with a clear list of priorities. The organization will look to replace Brian McCann as designated hitter and shore up the pitching staff. While the free agent market for starters is notably thin, there’s a variety of relief pitching options. “The bullpen market has a lot of different choices,” Brian Cashman told reporters last week.
It’s known that the Yankees are targeting one of the elite closers. They also have room for additional upgrades, however. One of those available relief pitchers is former Giants closer Sergio Romo, but does he make sense for the Yankees?
2016 Statistics: 40 G, 4 SV, 30.2 IP, 2.64 ERA, 3.80 FIP, 9.68 K/9, 2.05 BB/9, 67 ERA+
Age on Opening Day 2017: 34
Position: Right-handed relief pitcher
Romo became a household name during the 2012 postseason when he was the closer for the World Series winning Giants team. He pitched well before that, too. From 2010 - 2012, Romo owned a 1.85 ERA with a 2.29 FIP. He also generated a strong 11.05 K/9 with a modest 1.58 BB/9. For three years he was one of the game’s best relief options.
The results haven’t been as impressive since, however. From 2013 to 2016, he posted a 3.01 ERA with a 3.04 FIP. His K/9 dropped to 9.64 while his BB/9 rose to 1.79. This includes a disappointing 2014 campaign where he struggled to a 3.72 ERA and 3.94 FIP across 58 innings. That’s when he lost the closer role. Those are not ideal numbers for a late-inning reliever.
The right-hander also pitched only 30.2 innings in 2016, having dealt with a strained flexor tender in his pitching elbow, and various setbacks. Romo returned and finished strong, even reclaiming the closer role in September, but elbow injuries are always worrisome. This is especially concerning given his repertoire. He’s a slider-heavy pitcher. In 2015, Romo’s last full season, he threw his slider 59.27% of the time.
Romo also throws a pair of fastballs, a sinker and cutter, as well as a show-me changeup. The slider, however, is his moneymaker.
Another aspect to Romo’s game is a minor career-spanning platoon split. He’s held left-handed batters to .237/.303/.367 slash line. Meanwhile right-handers own a career .185/.226/.311 against him. When it comes to platoon splits, this one isn’t that big of a deal. Romo dominates right-handers while lefty batters have marginal success against him. He’s by no means a righty-specialist. He can handle entire innings regardless of batter-handedness.
With all of that in mind, does Romo make sense for the Yankees? If he’s healthy, he would make a reliever who carves up right-handers. He also does a mostly fine job of keeping the ball in the park, which is an attractive quality for Yankee Stadium. If he’s healthy, Romo would be a stabilizing force in middle relief.
The real question, however, is if the Yankees are a good fit Romo. He’s probably going to be looking to pitch in late-innings, and that won’t happen in the Bronx. He would slot behind Dellin Betances, Tyler Clippard, and whichever elite reliever they opt to sign. If he is for some reason open to a middle relief role, then the Yankees should certainly check in on him.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Brooks Baseball.