Update (Feb. 15, 2017): Sergio Romo officially signed a one-year deal with the Dodgers.
SAN FRANCISCO — One of the most popular relievers in Giants history is headed for the other side of a storied rivalry.
Sergio Romo agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, per Jon Morosi of MLB Network. According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, Romo’s deal will be for one year and is pending a physical. Romo, a native of Southern California, had spent his entire career with the Giants after being selected in the 28th round of the 2005 MLB Draft.
Romo had a 2.58 ERA in nine seasons with the Giants, saving 84 games, including the clincher in the 2012 World Series. His fastball to freeze Miguel Cabrera will go down as one of the gutsiest pitches ever thrown in the postseason, but his reign as a closer wouldn’t last much longer. Romo was an All-Star in 2013, but midseason struggles the next year cost him the ninth-inning role. He had just six saves the last two seasons, primarily serving as a setup man for Santiago Casilla while also battling injuries.
Romo made just 40 appearances in 2016 because of a flexor strain in a right elbow that has always seemed on the verge of blowing out. The Giants handled him carefully once he returned, but he grabbed a prominent role down the stretch by going back to his old ways. Romo’s slider was about as dominant as ever in August and September, and he posted a 1.42 ERA over his final 25 appearances.
His time with the Giants ended in an uncharacteristic way. Romo was part of the group that blew Game 4 of the NLDS, and the Giants opened their offseason with a set plan to go in a different direction. Mark Melancon was signed to a four-year deal in December. Romo and Casilla had both indicated a desire to return to San Francisco, but Casilla signed with the A’s in January after not receiving an offer, and Romo was left in the same position. In recent weeks, it became clear that the Dodgers would likely present the best opportunity. Romo's departure all but ends the wildly successful Core Four era. Jeremy Affeldt retired at the end of the 2015 season and Javier Lopez may join him soon.
In Los Angeles, Romo could have an opportunity to continue to pitch in the late innings. The Dodgers do not have a set eighth-inning guy in front of closer Kenley Jansen, and while Romo is best used as a matchup play these days, he remains death on right-handed hitters. Romo, born in nearby Brawley, should be a popular addition in Los Angeles. It won’t hurt that the player who has one of the best entrance routines in baseball will now play in the park with the loudest speakers.
The Giants will face Romo’s Dodgers 19 times in 2017, starting on April 24 in San Francisco. Romo is following a path recently blazed (unsuccessfully) by Jason Schmidt and Brian Wilson, but he should find a softer landing. Romo won’t be asked to be an ace or a closer. The Dodgers surely just want him to continue spinning sliders to right-handers, piling up strikeouts one or two batters at a time. If he’s the Romo of old, the rivalry will get an interesting boost. While the Giants send out a lineup filled with left-handers, Romo may see plenty of Hunter Pence, his neighbor in the clubhouse, and Buster Posey, his longtime catcher.