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Deep Sea Fishing: Sergio Romo

Romo is the first of many 2019-20 Marlins free agent targets who we’ll be analyzing on Fish Stripes.

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Time to spend Bruce Sherman’s and Derek Jeter’s money! Entering the third year under new Marlins ownership, fans expect to see significant improvement at the major league level. Some of that improvement will surely come from within, but prospects—as they say—will break your heart. Successful MLB rebuilds make sure to surround their young cores with veterans who can bring credibility and reliable production. Free agent additions figure to be critically important to keeping the Fish on track.

To date, the largest investment that the Sherman/Jeter Marlins have made in any free agent was $5.25 million for Cuban outfielder Víctor Víctor Mesa. “Deep Sea Fishing” is a series of profiles on established, available players—all of them projected to cost more than Víctor Víctor—who should be seriously considered by the front office.

2019 team(s): Marlins/Twins

2019 salary: $2.5 million

2020 season age: 37

Marlins connection? Sergio Romo was on the Marlins last season!

On Jul. 27, Miami sent him to the Twins along with pitching prospect Chris Vallimont and cash considerations in exchange for first baseman Lewin Díaz.

Romo told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic that the Marlins kept him in the loop throughout the negotiating process. It’s evident that he and president of baseball operations Michael Hill have mutual respect for one another.

Why the Marlins should want him

Last offseason, Romo lingered on the free agent market until Feb. 15, perhaps contributing to an uneven first few regular season outings. Outside of that, however, the experienced right-hander performed similarly to the peak years of his career.

With Miami and Minnesota combined, he posted a 3.43 ERA, 3.68 FIP in 60.1 IP, valued at 1.0 fWAR. Romo’s .264 BABIP was lower than most qualified MLB relievers, but his career average is .269. With the exception of 2018, he has ranked among the very best in the business at minimizing hard contact throughout the Statcast era; in 2019 specifically, his 23.5 Hard Hit% allowed was better than any other pitcher (min. 100 batted ball events).

Fish Stripes original GIF

Despite his small stature (listed at 5-11, 185), Romo has avoided severe injuries. His streak of seasons with 40-plus appearances dates back to 2009.

Romo’s signature weapon, the “frisbee” slider, remains unaffected by his age. The average spin rate has held steady north of 2,800 RPM, and there’s enough of a velocity gap between the slider and his mid-80s fastball to keep opponents off balance.

Romo has a unique background that enables him to relate to virtually any teammate. A former 28th-round draft pick, he defied the odds by simply breaking through to the big leagues. Though born in the United States, his Mexican heritage and physical features subjected him to harassment as an amateur athlete (an extra layer of adversity to overcome). And by contributing to three World Series championship with the Giants, he can speak directly to what’s needed to replicate that accomplishment.

Why the Marlins might not get him

His effectiveness, clubhouse impact and change-of-pace pitch mix/delivery will make Romo appealing to 29 other MLB teams. Most of those destinations have more realistic paths to immediate postseason contention than the Marlins do. Although he handled the midsummer trade with the utmost professionalism, I would imagine that—all things being equal—he prefers signing someplace where he’s assured of keeping a stable address.

Also, Romo lacks the “upside” of younger relievers with superior swing-and-miss stuff. It would be understandable if the Marlins focused their attention on high-risk/high-reward types in the hopes of stumbling upon another 2019 Nick Anderson-like asset. (My counterargument: Why not both??!?!)

The Marlins should be prepared to pay as much as (if not more than) the other Romo suitors to complete a deal. On Fish Bites, I forecasted a two-year deal in the $7.5 million range.

Fish Stripes estimates a 22% chance of the Marlins signing Sergio Romo this offseason.

Be sure to bookmark and check in frequently as the Deep Sea Fishing series continues...