On Saturday the Twins traded for veteran righty reliever Sergio Romo, also receiving minor league pitcher Chris Vallimont and player to be named later for minor league first baseman Lewin Diaz. This is the first Twins move as a “buyer” in quite some time, so how did Falvine do as they try to improve the Twins roster for a postseason run?
What the Twins received
Even considering his quality career numbers, which include a 2.91 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and a 10.0 K/9, Romo isn’t the shutdown bullpen option that he once was with the Giants. He put together a four-year span where he was one of the best relievers in the game between 2010 and 2013, when he pitched to a 2.03 ERA and a 10.4 K/9 (6.4 K/BB) in 162.2 innings. The 12-year veteran has dropped off a bit lately, sporting a 3.58 ERA and 3.88 FIP in 2019, but is certainly still a useful bullpen piece, especially at the price at which the Twins acquired him. Romo’s downturn in numbers is likely due a bit towards a slight decrease in velocity, though the three-time World Series champ has never relied on high velo to get batters out with a high 80’s fastball most of his career.
In fact, Romo is quite unique in that he uses his slider the most out of any pitches, throwing it a baffling 57.6% of the time. And why wouldn’t he? Batters have hit just .177 against the pitch with a paltry .216 wOBA. His changeup has also been an effective pitch with an xwOBA .253 and his four-seam fastball has been serviceable with an xwOBA of .318 (exactly league average). When Romo is forced to throw the sinker is where he gets in trouble, as batters have mashed for .557 wOBA on the pitch.
It’s possible that the Twins considered Romo’s postseason experience in their decision to trade for him. The veteran righty sports a 3.09 ERA in 23.1 postseason innings, including a .567 OPS against. However, Romo hasn’t pitched in a postseason game since 2016. His recent run of success may have influenced the Twins more heavily, as Romo has given up just one earned run in the past 14.2 innings. The stretch brought his ERA down nearly two runs, as it has plummeted from 5.48 to 3.58. Romo is under contract just for the 2019 season, and will be a free agent next year.
So where does Romo fit into the Twins bullpen this season? He will most likely be a set-up guy to start, though I would anticipate the Twins making a move for a more high-level reliever and bumping him down to a 7th inning role. He also could have value as a matchup righty reliever when necessary, as right-handed bats have hit just .203 against him this year with a .632 OPS.
Chris Vallimont is a 22-year old right-hander picked in the 2018 MLB draft by the Marlins in the fifth round. Vallimont struggled a bit out of the gate last year with a 6.21 ERA in Low-A and more walks than strikeouts, but has come into his own in 2019. The Mercyhurst College product has posted a 3.16 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP with a 10.4 K/9 in 105.1 innings this year and will likely slot into the rotation at High-A Fort Myers in the Twins farm system. Vallimont can hit mid-90’s fairly regularly and has a pretty solid slider as well. He profiles as a pitcher that could be a back-end starter down the road or a potential hard throwing relief option. MLB.com already slotted Vallimont in their Twins’ top 30 rankings as Minnesota’s number 29 prospect. The Twins also picked up a player to be named later in the deal, which will likely be a bit of a lottery ticket.
What the Twins gave up
Contrary to most deadline deals, the Twins (buyers) dealt just one player and received three players from the Marlins (sellers). That one player was first base prospect Lewin Diaz, a prospect that was certainly more highly regarded in past years. After a couple of poor seasons at the plate, Diaz had dropped into the 20’s in most Twins farm system rankings, though he has been enjoying a quality 2019 season. Between Fort Myers (A+) and Pensacola (AA), Diaz has slashed .295/.335/.558 with 20 home runs. However, his successful 2019 season is following a poor campaign in 2018 in which he posted an OPS of just .598 also at Fort Myers.
Diaz has been in the Twins system for awhile and will be subjected to the Rule 5 draft after this season if not added to the 40-man roster. This means that there was a decent chance that the Twins could have lost Diaz anyway, another reason to trade Diaz and some of his other fellow prospects at the deadline. Diaz’s path to playing time in the majors with the Twins also looked murky, with a slew of other potential first base prospects currently ahead of him or more likely to make an impact (Brent Rooker, Alex Kirilloff, Jaylin Davis). There is also a strong possibility Miguel Sano eventually moves to first, limiting the likelihood of Diaz being of much value to the Twins.
Acquiring Sergio Romo in itself doesn’t move the needle (in terms of an exciting trade) a ton, but looking at the deal as a whole and the state of the Twins bullpen, this was a quality swap for the Twins. Romo will bring a veteran presence and postseason experience to the team and should be a decent cog in the ‘pen with a special skillset of being nasty against righties. If he can keep up his recent run of success this will be an even better move for the Twins as the season wears on.
The Twins didn’t lose much in the prospect swap between Vallimont and Diaz, and Vallimont still has two years before he will become a Rule 5 eligible player whereas Diaz will be become such a player this offseason. The Twins farm system is certainly hitter-heavy as well, so this move will give the Twins another upside pitching prospect to work with. As a whole, it’s hard to argue with this trade from the Twins perspective. They will need to make more moves to improve the pitching staff, but this is a good start.
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