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Rays Bullpen Targets: Sergio Romo & Fernando Salas

Making friends, old and new, at the Winter Meetings.

MLB: New York Mets at San Francisco Giants Andrew Villa-USA TODAY Sports

The beat of the drum in the media for a trade of Alex Colome to another team is getting louder and louder by the day. With the winter meetings right around the corner, looking at a few options the Rays could add to help the pen depth should Colome depart could be interesting.

In researching this issue, I came up with two names that could truly solidify the back of the Rays pen for 2018 without breaking the bank. One Rays fans have seen in a Rays uniform before, and another who just happens to have been the Cardinals closer once upon a time.

First up is the one we’ve seen in a Rays uniform before and who the Rays will apparently take a close look at shortly

Sergio Romo

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Chicago White Sox Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The 10-year veteran RHP reliever had a tale of two seasons in 2017.

The first season was with the Dodgers, where his whip grew to a not-so-appealing 1.400 and he gave up 17 ER over 25 innings, something that scared away most MLB teams. But the Rays took a closer look, saw the 31 Ks in 25 IP, and decided to take a shot on the ex-closer, to see if he could help push them closer to a playoff position.

Romo had to appreciate leaving what seemed to be a deteriorating situation in LA, and got to work putting up some of his best stats in multiple seasons. While with the Rays, he threw 30.2 IP, and only gave up 19 hits and 7 walks, good for a 0.84 whip in half a season of work.

As always, it’s hard to pinpoint one or a few causes for such a change in results, but what I can tell you is that Romo decreased his reliance on the slider, rekindled use of his change up, and threw less breaking stuff while opting for more hard stuff, as the charts from Brooks Baseball indicates and here.

Maybe that helped him to locate better and get ahead of hitters while keeping them off balance more often, but the important part is that the Rays were able to get Romo into the best form he’d managed in years. And if you’re Romo, that counts for a lot looking at your future.

While he never did get a shot at closing out a few games, you can see that his dominance with the Rays was evident, and that he could be a settling force at the back of what is trending towards a very young pen.

We’ll look at the financial aspects below, but for now look at how appreciative he seems and how you can envision his being the go-to guy when the media needs to ask questions about pen performances.

Fernando Salas

Just as with Romo, Salas had a tale of two seasons in 2017, but his second half was much shorted than Romo’s and provides a tiny sample size to work with.

Salas began the season with the Mets with whom he’d ended 2016 on a high note (17.1 IP, 11 hits, 0 BB, 19 Ks), and so hopes were high he’d build on that. Well, just as with most other things Mets related in 2017, Salas wound up struggling, throwing 45 IP, allowing 60 hits and 20 walks while striking out 47.

The Mets released Salas at after those 45 IP, and the Angels - who know Salas extremely well - picked him up on a minors deal and he quickly made his way back to MLB for them. At that point, the Angels were 4 games above .500 and aiming for a playoff spot, meaning Salas was going to be pitching some important high-pressure innings.

With the Angels, albeit over a short time span, Salas threw 13.2 innings, allowed 7 hits and 2 walks while striking out 9, and did not allow a HR. Over that time, Salas made more use of his change up and less use of his four seamer than he had for most of the season with the Mets, as shown here.

Here’s an example of how he faired once back with the Angels.

The Rays can afford both, and should

The strength in numbers aspect of adding both Romo and Salas to the Rays pen in 2018 has a lot of appeal to it. First, neither demanded a huge salary in 2017 and neither is likely to be expecting a large one in 2018 based on their up-and-down 2017 seasons. So if one should fall off, the financial cost won’t break the Rays budget.

But more importantly, it’s what both bring to the Rays in steadying forces and experience that matters.

Both have had major successes, each having won a World Series (3 for Romo), and each has dealt with (and felt the pain of) failure while also coming out of it on top again. That kind of veteran experience and knowledge could be valuable to pass on to the young arms that the Rays will count on to man the bulk of their pen in 2018.

While the Rays still have to trim their roster in certain areas before they consider adding relievers to the pen, these two are the kinds of arms we’re hoping they add earlier than they managed to do in 2017.

We’ll wait and see if the Rays like what they see when Romo pitches this week, and if they do, he could be a Rays RP before the winter meetings are over or soon thereafter.

As for Salas, the Rays should monitor the market to see if a minor league deal for Salas is in the cards, but will likely have to outbid the Angels (who are more familiar with him) if they want his services.

If the Rays add both of these arms to the pen, and do end up moving Alex Colome to another team, they would benefit from a stable, affordable, and still experienced and capable ‘pen. Without such additions, the risks of another scramble for pen help mid-season would be evident and could jeopardize what should be a competitive season for this team.

Are these the guys you hope they bring in? Or do you have better options in mind?