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Is It Time For The Giants To Trade Sergio Romo?

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Yes! I mean, no! Well, let's talk about it. First let me climb into this flame-proof suit and seal the door of my underground bunker. Until you put the rocks down, I will only speak to you through the communication tube.

Here are the facts:

* Sergio Romo is a charming fellow.
* Sergio Romo threw the final pitch of the 2012 World Series, which produced the same befuddlement as most of the pitches he threw in those playoffs.
* Sergio Romo wears awesome T-shirts during World Series parades.
* Giants fans will cry if he is traded.

Here are other facts:

* His strikeout rate has decreased the past three years, while his walk rate has increased.
*He's still very good, but by nearly every measure, he wasn't among the top 30 relievers in baseball in 2013.
* He's making $5.5 M in 2014, with a potential bump to $6.5 M according to Cot's.
* After 2014, he's a free agent.

The Giants love bullpen consistency and don't mind paying for it, but it's hard to see them paying Sergio Romo $7, $8, even $9 million a year to be their closer beyond 2014. Perhaps they'll work out something creative, or Romo will be happy with a modest raise of, say, a two year, $12-to-$14 M extension.

Would that be the wisest use of Charles Johnson's mutual fund booty? Absolutely not. Pitching is a traditional strength of the team's farm system, and guys like Heath Hembree, Derek Law, and Josh Osich are coming up fast. With all due respect for what Romo has done the past few years, the Giants really should be able to find a good, cheap closer for 2015 and beyond.

So if you agree with my premise that it's hard to see Romo in a Giants' uniform beyond 2014, the next question is whether it makes sense to trade him, either now or mid-season. The Giants aren't going to get draft pick compensation for letting him walk when the season ends. A $14 M qualifying offer to a reliever not named Mariano Rivera would be one of the wackiest baseball moves of the past decade. No qualifying offer, no draft pick compensation.

The Rays were able to trade lefty specialist Alex Torres, plus a pitching prospect who had a nice season as a 23-year-old in High A ball, to San Diego for utility guy Logan Forsythe and four others. Torres is making the minimum, however. Some teams will surely balk at Romo's pay, and the Giants aren't going to move Romo as a salary dump. They'll want players in return.

The long term plan is almost certainly Heath Hembree, who dazzled last September. But the conservative Giants aren't likely to anoint him closer as they break camp. So trading Romo before the season starts would likely mean closer by committee, with Casilla, Affeldt and Lopez handling duties. Perhaps even Jean Machi. I don't mind closer-by-committee, and Bruce Bochy could pull it off, but it's not going to be Plan A.

Unless a great offer emerges, I'd be shocked if Romo is dealt before June. It makes more sense to wait for teams to develop pressing needs, and other teams probably want to see if Romo starts 2014 in fine shape, or shows more signs of tapering off.

The final element of the equation is whether the Giants are in contention come June. If they've tumbled and stumbled all spring, it would be criminal not to explore a trade. Closers have minimal value to a non-contending team. Even if the Giants are contending, with Hembree  doing good work in the bullpen mix, a trade still makes sense. But the last time the Giants traded a key player mid-season while in contention, it was to make room for some kid who had made every possible case to be the starting catcher. In other words, the Giants waited to trade Bengie Molina until the situation was almost entirely risk-free. I imagine that, unless someone knocks them out with an offer, the Giants will be just as cautious with a Romo trade.

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