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Ricky Romero Rumors
Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes was surprised when Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports pointed out that his new team is off the the same 2-5 start as the Marlins were a year prior. Reyes, however, isn't worried about his team's outlook: "…there’s no concern at all. There’s way too much talent on this ballclub to continue to play the way we’re playing.” Here are some more links from baseball's two Eastern divisions…
- WEEI.com's Rob Bradford hears that the Red Sox are not interested in trading for Aaron Harang (Twitter link). Reports over the weekend linked Boston to the recently DFA'ed right-hander.
- Offseason acquisition Denard Span has given the Nationals a "new kind of offensive identity," writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. The presence of Span and Jayson Werth atop the lineup forces pitchers to work, given the high volume of pitches the pair averages per plate appearance. Werth and Adam LaRoche both offer high praise for the Nats' new leadoff man, who was acquired from the Twins for Alex Meyer this offseason.
- Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca chronicles the early work that former Blue Jays ace Ricky Romero has done so far in his attempts to rediscover his mechanics. As Dividi notes, given the $7.5MM owed to Romero in each of the next three seasons, Toronto has no reason to rush and every reason to make sure they get it right.
- Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that struggling ace Roy Halladay will have as long of a leash as he needs to get things sorted out: "If he needs 30 starts he’ll get it. As long as he’s healthy and he keeps working at it — as much as he needs."
- Chris Dickerson is set to be added to the Orioles' 40-man and 25-man roster today, but speculation that it could result in a Steve Pearce DFA doesn't make sense, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports, who hears that the upcoming move won't involve Pearce.
The Yankees will finish in last place, predicts Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Predicting the AL East is no easy task, that's for sure. The latest from baseball's eastern division teams:
- The Yankees need another Aaron Small-type hidden gem this year, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The team is facing some derision for recent veteran pickups like Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay, but Sherman feels the front office has earned the benefit of the doubt given its success with these types of additions.
- The Blue Jays and starter J.A. Happ first discussed an extension in the offseason when they were doing his arbitration case, GM Alex Anthopoulos told Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. The agreement was reached before Happ found out he'd made the Opening Day rotation, said the pitcher. The Jays guaranteed Happ's final arbitration year in 2014 and also snagged a club option for '15.
- Happ beat out Ricky Romero for the Jays' fifth starter job, even though Romero is owed $7.5MM this year. Romero, who was optioned to High-A, told Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, "I don’t belong here to be honest with you. This is not for me."
- The Mets are not yet convinced Ruben Tejada is their shortstop of the future, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Gavin Cecchini is Baseball America's top-rated shortstop in the Mets' farm system, but he was drafted out of high school last summer.
- The Nationals are a scouting-first organization, but GM Mike Rizzo is open-minded to suggestions from their two top analytics people, Adam Cromie and Samuel Mondry-Cohen, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. The team has its own formula to evaluate defense and its own version of wins above replacement.
Toronto had reportedly been deciding whether to allow the former Opening Day starter and All-Star to work out his issues on the big league club, or whether instead to turn to J.A. Happ to fill out the rotation, as CBS Sports' Danny Knobler explained earlier today. In conjunction with the Romero move, Happ has been told that he will be the fifth starter by GM Alex Anthopoulos, Davidi further tweets.
When the Blue Jays committed $30.1MM to Ricky Romero last August, he had just 52 MLB starts to his name. But the Toronto front office was less concerned about his relative inexperience than the reality that pitchers’ throwing arms are often fragile.
“I think the risks are pretty obvious with health,” GM Alex Anthopoulos said last August 14th. “You’re always concerned with respect to health.”
In the year and two weeks since Romero signed his five-year extension, he has logged 238 innings, including 181 this year. When the left-hander looks back at the first year of the deal, he evaluates himself on his ability to stay on the field.
“Oh yeah, I think it’s health,” he said, crediting Toronto’s training staff. “That’s the big thing for anyone – to stay healthy. That’s the biggest concern – if you’re going to be able to last the whole season and not break down.”
If Romero (pictured) looked at the stat sheet, he’d find himself in the top ten in the American League in ERA (4th, 2.78), but he doesn’t evaluate himself on ERA, wins, xFIP or any statistic other than innings pitched.
“No, not at all,” he said. “For me I take pride in just going out there and giving my team a chance to win and racking up innings. If I do that and have quality outings? I’m good with that. I feel like I’ve done that this year.”
The numbers confirm that Romero has been effective. He has a 3.13 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 238 innings since finalizing the deal, which set a record for pitchers with less than two full years of MLB service. At the time of the extension, the Jays were willing to enter unchartered territory with the 2005 first rounder since they looked forward to seeing him develop into their ace.
“We see a guy like Ricky continuing to improve,” Anthopoulos said last year. “We think he’s going to be an innings eater, we think he’s going to be a horse. We think he’s going to continue to evolve.”
Jon Lester and Yovani Gallardo, whose extensions figured prominently into the Blue Jays’ deal with Romero, have both taken steps forward since signing their respective contracts. Like the Blue Jays, the Red Sox and Brewers are getting what they paid for – and then some. Despite the similarities between his career and theirs, Romero doesn’t watch Lester and Gallardo any more attentively than he watches others.
“Whenever they’re on TV or there are highlights of them, yeah I’ll watch,” Romero said. “But I like watching baseball highlights period. It doesn’t matter who it is. I don’t pay any extra attention to them. They’re both great pitchers and having good years too.”
Romero’s extension won’t expire before 2015 (the Blue Jays have a club option for 2016), so they have reason to look well beyond 2011. Though there are no guarantees in baseball, especially for pitchers, Romero says his arm feels as good as ever.
“I’m feeling great,” he said. “I think as the season goes on I continue to get stronger and that’s what you’re looking for.”
Photo courtesy Icon SMI.
If a team signs a pitcher to an extension and he becomes an Opening Day starter, the club has an indication that the deal is going well. It’s too early on in the extensions for Jon Lester, Yovani Gallardo and Ricky Romero to call them successes or failures, because none of the extensions expire before 2013. But all three starters will pitch this Opening Day, a sign that the deals are going well for the teams so far.
The three extensions, signed within 18 months of one another between March, 2009 and August, 2010, are all for five years with a club option for a sixth year and are all valued within the narrow $30-30.1MM range.
The pitchers signed similar extensions because they were on statistically similar career paths before finalizing the deals. And fortunately for the Red Sox, Brewers and Blue Jays, the pitchers have performed just as well – maybe even better – since accepting their clubs’ multi-million dollar offers.
Lester, the first to sign, has been one of the best left-handed pitchers in the game since 2009 (WAR says Cliff Lee is the only lefty who pitched better in ’09-’10). In 411 1/3 innings (64 starts) since signing, Lester has posted a 3.33 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9.
Gallardo, the lone right-hander in the group, signed last April, a year after the Red Sox locked Lester up. Since the ink dried on his deal with Milwaukee, Gallardo (pictured) has logged 178 innings (30 starts) and posted a 3.84 ERA with 9.9 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9.
Romero broke out last year, posting a 3.73 ERA in 210 innings. That prompted the Blue Jays to lock him up in August, so he has made just nine starts since signing his deal. The 26-year-old posted respectable numbers over the final month and a half of the season: a 4.26 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9.
The trio has stayed healthy and effective so far, but with three to five years remaining on the deals, there’s ample time for the extensions to backfire. All three teams were willing to take that risk when they offered tens of millions to the promising pitchers and, at least so far, the investments have paid off.
Photo courtesy Icon SMI.
Sunday night linkage..
- Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports implores the Nats to get a deal done with Bryce Harper.
- Nats pitcher Stephen Strasburg had some interesting comments to make about the club's negotiations with Harper, writes Bill Ladson of MLB.com.
- Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times (in these tweets) says that rival agents think that the Dodgers will offer first-round pick Zach Lee roughly $3MM and at least one of them thinks that will be enough to get a deal done.
- Toronto manager Cito Gaston told David Ely of MLB.com that he didn't think Ricky Romero would feel any pressure after signing a lucrative contract extension. The lefty didn't show any signs of jitters today as he allowed just one run in seven innings against the Angels.
- Boston outfielder Jeremy Hermida is making the most of his time in the minors, writes Daniel Barbarisi of The Providence Journal. Hermida was just thirty days shy of accruing enough major league time to decline a demotion when he was sent down by the Red Sox.
Technically, the Blue Jays entered uncharted territory today. They committed more money ($30.1MM) to Ricky Romero than any team has ever committed to a pitcher with less than two years of service time. But in reality, the extension is all about precedent.
“It’s all about comparables and comparable deals and what else has been done,” Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said this evening, comparing Romero to Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester and Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo.
Both Lester ($30MM) and Gallardo ($30.1MM) signed deals worth virtually the same amount as Romero’s. The three extensions cover the exact same five seasons (one year of pre-arbitration, three arbitration seasons and one free agent season) and all include $13MM team options for the players’ second free agent years. It would be hard to construct three more similar contracts.
And it would be hard to find three more similar pitchers. If you compare Romero to Lester and Gallardo at the time they signed their respective contracts, you notice striking similarities. All three had made between 52 and 59 starts, posted ERAs between 3.57 and 3.94, allowed between 28 and 33 homers and walked between 134 and 141 batters. All three were selected within the first two rounds of the amateur draft and all three were 24 or 25 when they agreed to their respective deals.
There are differences, of course. Gallardo is right-handed and walks and strikes out more batters than the two lefties. Lester and Gallardo missed time early in their careers, whereas Romero has been fully healthy. Anthopoulos realizes the inherent risk of committing tens of millions to a pitcher, but says Romero has the stuff to improve over the course of the deal.
“You always have concerns when you make a commitment,” Anthopoulos said. “What the reaction might be on the part of the player, but we see a guy like Ricky continuing to improve. We think he’s going to be an innings eater, we think he’s going to be a horse [and] we think he’s going to continue to evolve.”
There's no question that Lester and Gallardo have continued evolving since signing their contracts. Lester has improved his strikeout rate since signing his extension two offseasons ago. And Gallardo, who signed his contract this April, leads the National League in strikeout rate and is on pace to post the lowest full-season ERA of his career. The Blue Jays hope and believe Romero will develop, but they won’t be disappointed if he keeps pitching the way he has.
“Even if there wasn’t much improvement or any at all,” Anthopoulos said. “We think what he’s doing right now [is good enough]. He’s had a tremendous year for us.”
The deal is designed to save the Blue Jays money in arbitration and keep Romero in Toronto for what the Jays expect to be his prime years. Even though Romero wasn’t going to hit the open market until four winters from now, the contract is all about market value. If Romero pitches like Gallardo and Lester, the deal will be a win and if he misses extended periods of time with injuries it will be a loss. Until then, it’s neither an overpay nor a discount.
4:57pm: Romero will receive a $1.25MM bonus, according to Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulous via conference call. The lefty will earn $750K in 2011, $5MM in 2012, and $7.5MM each year from 2013 through 2015. The option in 2016 will be for $13MM with a $600K buyout.
3:24pm: The contract includes a club option for the 2016 season, according to the Blue Jays (via Twitter).
The contract matches Yovani Gallardo's deal for the largest guarantee for a pitcher with fewer than three years of service, excluding foreign hurlers. Rosenthal adds (via Twitter) that this is the largest guarantee ever for a pitcher with fewer than two years of major league service.
Romero, 25, has a 3.53 ERA in his sophomore campaign with 7.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. The extension will buy up all of the former sixth overall pick's arbitration years.