The Mariners announced four roster moves Monday, reinstating righty Ken Giles from the 60-day injured list and recalling infielder Kevin Padlo from Triple-A Tacoma. In order to create roster space, right-hander Sergio Romo and lefty Roenis Elias were designated for assignment.
Romo, signed to a one-year, $2MM deal late in the offseason after it was learned that Casey Sadler required season-ending shoulder surgery, was sharp through his first month as a Mariner but has seen the wheels come off in dramatic fashion. The 39-year-old sidearmer yielded just one run through his first eight innings before the Orioles tattooed him for five runs in two-third of an inning back on June 1.
That marked the beginning of a monumental meltdown that has seen the three-time World Series champion and former All-Star serve up a dozen runs in his past 6 1/3 frames. Romo has allowed runs in five of his past nine appearances, giving up multiple runs in an outing four times during that calamitous stretch.
Given the extent of those struggles and the fact that he’s on a guaranteed salary (albeit a fairly modest one), Romo is quite likely to go unclaimed on waivers and become a free agent. Any team that wants to speculate on helping him right the ship would only owe him the prorated league minimum for any time spent in the Majors at that point. Romo hasn’t experienced a velocity drop — he’s still sitting at 85.6 mph with his sinker and in the 77-78 range with his signature slider — and is still inducing chases off the plate at a huge 37.8% clip. Given that context and his broader track record, he ought to have another opportunity out there — particularly if he’s willing to take a minor league deal somewhere.
As for the 33-year-old Elias, he’s pitched far better with the Mariners in 2022, albeit in a smaller sample of 7 2/3 innings. During that time, the veteran lefty has fanned six of 33 opponents (18.2%) while walking three (9.1%) and inducing grounders at a robust 50% clip. That marks Elias’ first big league action since the 2019 season, as he was sidelined for much of the 2020-21 seasons due to arm injuries — culminating in Tommy John surgery last March.
Elias has been similarly solid in Triple-A this year, notching a 3.63 ERA with a 17.6% strikeout rate against a sharp 6.8% walk rate and a 44.6% grounder rate in 17 1/3 innings. It’s possible he’ll hold some appeal to bullpen-hungry clubs, particularly those in need of a lefty. In 395 2/3 innings at the MLB level, Elias has a 3.96 ERA — although that mark is at 3.30 dating back to a 2017 move to the bullpen.
Giles, 31, will be activated for his team debut. Signed to a two-year, $7MM contract knowing he’d miss the first year of the deal recovering from 2020 Tommy John surgery, Giles brings a a triple-digit heater and 115 career saves to the Seattle bullpen. His minor league rehab assignment, however, was grisly. The former Phillies, Astros and Blue Jays closer logged 7 1/3 innings between High-A and Triple-A but was shellacked for 16 runs (11 earned) on 15 hits and eight walks in that time. Giles also served up four long balls in that stretch.
Some rust after a long layoff is to be expected, but those minor league struggles are nevertheless eye-opening. However, it’s worth noting that in addition to that 2020 Tommy John procedure, Giles suffered a strained tendon in his pitching hand back in Spring Training, which sent him back to the IL for the first two-plus months of the season.
At his best, Giles has shown the ability to be one of the game’s very best relievers. He tallied 53 innings of 1.87 ERA ball as recently as 2019 with Toronto, striking out 40% of his opponents along the way. And in 351 career innings, Giles boasts a 2.74 ERA with a huge 33.3% strikeout rate against a better-than-average 7.7% walk rate. Time will tell which version of the righty the Mariners are getting, but if he’s back to form, Giles could either be a key bullpen piece down the stretch or, if the Mariners continue to struggle, an appealing trade chip in six weeks’ time.