Only a few days ago I wrote that Ricky Romero did not deserve to be called back up to the big-leagues.
The Toronto Blue Jays weighed the pros and cons of his return and, while I felt there were more cons, I’m also not the one paying Romero $15 million over the next two years, with an option for $13.1 million more in 2016.
And really, that’s what is driving this decision.
If Romero were a product of another organization, not getting paid millions, pitching as poorly as he did in triple-A this year (61 walks, 81 strikeouts, 5.78 ERA, 1.751 WHIP, 4.80 FIP in 113 innings) he wouldn’t be here. The Jays need to see with their own eyes what’s going on with their investment.
That’s not to say there aren’t people who want him here, that this is just a sterile move completely predicated on money. Romero is one of the most beloved Blue Jays as well as one of the few successful players to emerge from the organization’s farm system in recent years. With all this criticism floating around that the Jays aren’t good with player development, having Romero back would sure be nice.
The Jays believe that even if they stick Romero in a bullpen already over-crowded with longmen/swingmen/sixth-starter journeymen, it’s better than leaving him in triple-A.
The hope is that by pulling Romero up and getting him back into some big league games in September, with playoff pressure long gone and the eyes of many fans diverted elsewhere, they’ll get Romero into controlled scenarios more conducive to success. Should Romero have success in these limited samples, he’ll (supposedly) get the psychological boost he needs to get back to 2011 form.
This is where my biggest point of contention arises.
The big-leagues are the big-leagues, not a psychiatrist’s office. A series of lower risk outings in September is not panacea to what has been ailing Ricky for two seasons now.
While I wholeheartedly agree that whatever led to Romero’s implosion was in large part mental, I can’t deny that he may be dealing with serious physical shortcomings as well.
His strikeout-to-walk ratio is awful. He has given up 20 more hits than innings pitched. He’s got 10 wild pitches, not including the one he threw in the majors this season in 4.1 innings pitched. Add this to the stats listed above and the thinking that he may unlock his latent talents and become the old Romero back at the MLB level becomes much harder to believe.
However, for argument’s sake, let’s say Romero does flourish in limited samples. Those limited samples presumably won’t be lefty/lefty match ups, since Romero’s lifetime splits against lefties are atrocious (1,005 plate appearances yielding an .857 OPS).
And with right-handers such as Jeremy Jeffress, Steve Delabar, Dustin McGowan, Sergio Santos and Neil Wagner throwing high 90s heat in successful roles, why use Romero against right-handers?
Moreover, what does using Romero in limited outings under optimal conditions only prove? That he’s back? Far from it. It proves that he can get outs in the big leagues as long as he’s put in situations that are optimal for him.
I think it’s fair to say that the plan is not to find Romero a spot in the pen. It’s about confidence. Limited sparks of success to rekindle an enduring flame of production.
The problem is hoping to win a player some confidence by gambling on what might happen to him if what has been happening to him all season doesn’t continue to happen to him simply because he is now in the bigs, does not strike me as a sound business plan.
The good news is, even if Romero implodes again, the Jays aren’t out anything they weren’t already missing. Romero remains a non-factor for big league production, and a money suck the Jays are committed to for the next two years. Calling him up at least gives the Jays a chance — though it’s a desperate one — to get him back on track.
Unless, of course, the fragile logic surrounding this move proves true only for the converse to happen: Romero comes to the big leagues, it’s the efficacious mental tool everyone believes it could be, he explodes, and becomes a pitcher that can’t even think of a big-league mound without cold sweat beading upon his brow.
And there is a track record that suggests this could happen, a record stronger than the evidence supporting the positive rebound theory. Last year was not the first time Romero had production stymieing ethereal funk. Romero struggled so much during one of his tours of double-A that he wanted to quit baseball altogether. One could speculate that the mental struggles that come along with baseball have always been a difficulty for Romero.
This is in no way calling Romero weak. Not at all. For him to make it as far as he has is a testament to his resilience and overcomer spirit. But if you’ve followed Romero’s career for any length of time, you can plainly see that on-field failure has always been tied closely to mental anguish.
And now that his effectiveness has been reduced, the mental strain has increased and will continue to be a factor for him, much like an increased workload on already strained hamstring.
It’s all speculation at this point. In fact, the only sure thing is that it’s all speculation. When I asked general manager Alex Anthopoulos about Romero, and what the organization was going to do to fix him, he told me he didn’t know because, “we’ve never been in this situation.”
Not a lot of teams have, frankly. But Anthopoulos has made a reputation of making moves and acquisitions based on tools and production.
Right now, Romero doesn’t have many productive tools that play at the big leagues, therefore, one must question whether he should be in the big leagues, if it fits the logic the team holds true to, and if it will be of any benefit to Romero at all.