White Sox Are Tracking Rebounding Reliever

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The White Sox are tracking a rebounding reliever that could pay dividends.
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images North America via Zimbio

The latest rumor involving the White Sox includes a name I identified in an article on Nov. 3. According to Jesse Sanchez, the South Siders have already begun courting the reliever.

Romo fits the profile of a venerated veteran coming off a tough season with a cheap price tag that the White Sox have made a habit of targeting as they continue rebuilding the franchise. Romo was one of the best closers in Major League Baseball for a stretch that included three World Series championships with the San Francisco Giants. The reliever was a featured member of a stellar pitching staff in San Francisco and closed 38 games for the Giants in 2013, his lone all-star season.

Despite being honored with only one all-star season Romo’s value was incalculable for the Giants from 2010 to 2016. He served as the Swiss army knife of the pitching staff and seemed to happily flummox batters in every capacity. And 2017 was supposed to be his grand homecoming when he signed a sizable one-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Romo’s season went south quickly and he was designated for assignment in July, but he found new life on the left, right coast. Tampa Bay scooped up the veteran and after posting a 6.12 earned run average in his first 30 games with the Dodgers, Romo rebounded with the Rays logging a 1.47 ERA in 25 appearances.

Sometimes this happens to players. A new city occasionally wreaks havoc on their stat-line for inexplicable reasons, but Romo appears to be back on track. His K-rate slumped last season (26.3 percent) while his walks swelled to a career-high and every other measurable metric went haywire for the veteran. But the recovery he mounted in Tampa Bay speaks volumes about his value.

I could toss out all the other sabermetric jargon to beat a dead horse and say that Romo had a down year and that he will be a bargain this offseason, but the numbers are easy enough to decipher. His FIP landed on a career-high 4.22, K-BB rate sunk to a career low (17.9 percent) and up hard contact at a rate not seen since his rookie season. All this amounts to the perfect recipe for the White Sox to reestablish value.

Romo’s bread and butter had always been his wipeout slider. His fastball was never an out pitch and rarely reached 90 miles per hour, but his heater lost even more velocity in 2017 and he had to rely on the slider 58 percent of the time. Romo has gone to the slider more in past seasons but it seems that is a saturation point.

Given Romo signed a $3 million deal with the Dodgers as one of the heralded free-agent relievers last offseason it stands to reason that the White Sox could snag the right-hander for less than that on a year deal with a strong likelihood to flip him at the trade deadline. White Sox brass won’t overpay for Romo but expect them to be competitive given their shrinking payroll and proximity to competing. Rick Hahn landed catcher Welington Castillo on a two-year deal recently and that indicates that Hahn is willing to start thinking about the 2019 and 2020 seasons where the South Siders will start contending for postseason bids.

Romo is 34 years old and relievers are candidates for short-term deals given their value around the league, so it makes sense to offer Romo a one-year deal with a $2.5 million cap. He won’t command the type of salary he earned from the Dodgers but he finished so strong in 2017 and has a lengthy resume that the league won’t ignore. In his tweet, Sanchez points out the Rays, Blue Jays and Nationals as teams already courting Romo.

With Winter Meetings kicking off on Dec. 10 the White Sox might make signing Romo a priority. Hahn has already explained that this offseason will be a little less hectic than last season but there are still decisions to be made.