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Sergio Romo may be too expensive for the Tigers' bullpen needs

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The former Giants closer will still probably get a big payday this offseason.

Rob Carr

It's not often that one can lose their job and get a significant pay raise less than a year later. Then again, there aren't many people in this world playing professional baseball. Sergio Romo may fit under both of these narratives. Romo, the former closer of the San Francisco Giants, was replaced as the team's ninth inning man earlier this season. Now, Romo is hitting the open market after an excellent postseason and will likely draw the eyes of teams looking for late inning relief help.

The Tigers fit this bill if only because their bullpen is awful. Should they be interested in Romo?

Year IP W-L SV ERA WHIP FIP xFIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 SIERA fWAR
2014 58.0 6-4 23 3.72 0.95 3.96 3.40 9.16 1.86 1.40 2.70 -0.3
Steamer* 65.0 3-3 28 2.96 1.12 3.27 - 8.33 2.03 0.83 - 0.3
Career 351.2 31-21 78 2.51 0.93 2.74 3.02 10.08 1.84 0.79 2.41 6.6

*2015 Steamer projection

Who is he?

A 31 year old right-hander, Romo was drafted by the Giants in the 28th round of the 2005 draft. He spent most of his first two years in the minor leagues as a starter, but converted to the bullpen before he reached Advanced-A ball. He made his MLB debut in late June of 2008 and logged 34 innings with a 2.12 ERA and 0.71 WHIP. He got off to a slow start the next season after suffering an elbow injury during Spring Training, but finished the year strong with a 2.50 ERA in August and September.

Over the next four seasons, Romo quickly blossomed into one of the best relievers in the National League. He allowed a 2.03 ERA and 2.44 FIP in 225 2/3 innings during that stretch. He served as the team's setup man during the 2010 World Series run, then took over the closer role down the stretch in 2012. He saved 52 games in 58 attempts in 2012 and 2013. He took a step back early in 2014, losing his closer role in the middle of the season. However, he posted a 1.80 ERA in the second half and allowed just one run during the team's postseason run to a third championship in five years.

Why should we care?

Regardless of what inning he pitches, Romo has been one of the best relievers in baseball since he hit the big leagues. His career numbers are astounding on their own: a 2.51 ERA, 2.74 FIP, 0.93 WHIP, and 5.47 strikeout-to-walk ratio are all among the best in baseball over the past seven seasons. He doesn't allow much hard contact, resulting in just 6.5 hits allowed per nine innings for his career.

While lefties have a higher OPS against Romo than righties, he has still done an excellent job of shutting down opposite-handed hitters in his career. Lefties are hitting just .220 with a .621 OPS in 505 career appearances against the California native. He has only allowed nine career home runs to left-handed hitters. If anything, righties have enjoyed the power surge, with 22 home runs in 885 plate appearances. Romo also has an excellent .615 OPS allowed away from the cavernous AT&T Park in his career.

Why should we stay away?

The biggest reason is obvious: cost. While he lost his closer gig last season, he has still handled the role capably in the past. This is something that teams actually still value when searching for a relief pitcher -- hey there, Joe Nathan -- so it adds a few dollars to Romo's price tag. In his buyer's defense, the peripherals are also there. That said, is he going to be worth the $20+ million it will take to sign him? Not likely.

Romo's age isn't necessarily an issue. He will be 32 on Opening Day, which isn't necessarily a big risk for a pitcher likely to get a two or three year deal. However, the combination of his age, pitching repertoire, and previous history of injury (albeit minor) makes him a bigger risk than usual. Romo threw his slider nearly 50 percent of the time in 2014 and has been close to that rate for most of his career. He has been able to remain relatively healthy over the last few years, but eventually the wear and tear he is putting on that right arm will begin to show.

Will he end up in Detroit?

It doesn't seem likely. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the Tigers would not be pursuing Yankees closer David Robertson this offseason.

However, Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski told The Post the organization picked up Joakim Soria’s $7 million option as a way to stay out of the market for late-game relief.

If the Tigers are out on the Robertson sweepstakes, they will almost assuredly stay away from Romo as well. MLB Trade rumors projects a three year, $21 million deal for Romo. This seems like slightly less than what Robertson will fetch on the open market -- think $10 million per year for him -- but the Tigers seem more interested in finding another cheap option or two than picking out one of the better relievers on the market at a premium price.