Whenever a young pitcher signs a long-term deal that looks extremely team-friendly -- like Madison Bumgarner or Chris Sale -- there's a part of me that wonders what in the heck the pitcher is thinking, giving up all that potential money. That lasts about five seconds, and then I remember the ballad of Ricky Romero. The Giants just signed the 30-year-old lefty to a minor league deal, years after the Blue Jays spent a lot of money to keep him away from other teams.
While Romero has missed substantial time with a knee injury, his quick decline wasn't tethered to an arm or shoulder injury. It just happened, poof, in a way that could make 2012 Tim Lincecum say, "What happened to that guy?" It happened quickly enough to make handsome national baseball writers try (and fail) to figure it out. Romero was an All-Star in 2011 and then, without any reduction in velocity or apparent injury, he was the wildest pitcher in baseball in 2012, walking 105 in 181 innings.
Romero spent most of his 2013 season in the minors, where he continued walking batters at a ridiculous rate (5.0 per nine innings), and in 2014, he fell apart completely, walking 42 batters in 37⅓ Triple-A innings before his knee injury. The Blue Jays released him in April, four years after signing him to a five-year, $30.1 million extension.
Will he turn his career around with the Giants? We don't know, but ... well, no. No, he probably won't. The Blue Jays were going to pay Romero millions if he were on the roster or not, and they decided that the roster spot was worth more than the raffle ticket. That's not a decision they made lightly. And don't forget that even though we love to reminisce about the Ryan Vogelsong renaissance, the Giants have also employed these pitchers in Triple-A over the last few years:
- Dontrelle Willis
- Mitchell Boggs
- Boof Bonser
- Ramon Ortiz
- Dontrelle Willis (again)
- Jesse Foppert (the second time)
None of them worked out. Sometimes broken pitchers stay broken. Oftentimes, even.
However, those were all no-risk, high-reward pitchers who didn't cost the team a danged thing other than a Triple-A roster spot. If the Giants could find one Vogelsong out of every seven tries, Brad Pitt would play Brian Sabean in the movie, so I don't think those are the odds we should be looking for. Still, we know the potential for ludicrous surprises exists because of Vogelsong. It's sprayed the whole organization with a shiny what-if sheen for the last five seasons. Romero falls right into that wheelhouse.
So don't expect Romero to be fixed. Just keep an eye on him. When he was 26 and finished with a pair of third-place Cy Young votes, he was supposed to be a part of the Blue Jays' long-term solution. That talent might still be in there, somewhere, buried under layers of Jonathan Sanchez. Whom the GIants should also sign, just in case. The Giants should have a whole secret team of formerly valuable hitters and pitchers playing scrimmages in an underground bunker in Wyoming, just in case.
Probably won't work. Could work. So why not?
Also, Tom Sizemore would play Sabean in that movie if it really happened. I would pay to watch that, Hollywood. I would pay to watch that.