SAN DIEGO -- Veteran reliever Sergio Romo spent half a season with the Marlins in 2019, yet he made a lasting impression. So much so that Miami is open to bringing back the 36-year-old right-hander.
“I think we said it last year when we traded him,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said Monday at the Winter Meetings. “He did a great job for us. He did a great job with mentoring some of our young guys. He’s still a productive Major League reliever.”
The Marlins signed Romo before Spring Training, and in 38 games with Miami, he had a 3.58 ERA and 17 saves before he was dealt to the Twins in July.
Miami traded Romo, pitching prospect Chris Vallimont, and cash considerations to the Twins for first base prospect Lewin Díaz.
Díaz, Miami’s No. 12 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has a chance to reach the big leagues in 2020 and become Miami’s regular first baseman. This past season, for three different teams, the left-handed hitting first baseman combined to hit .270/.321/.530 with 27 home runs and 76 RBIs.
Romo made $2.5 million in 2019, and his salary for next season is expected to be similar. Bullpen is an area of need for the Marlins.
“We’re exploring the entire market of eligible guys,” Hill said. “I know [Romo] has been connected to us, as well he should be. He was very public in saying that he enjoyed his time with us. We’ll see where things go. But he was a player who did very well for us, and did a good job in his time with us.”
As much as the Marlins covet bullpen help, the area of the biggest need remains upgrading an offense that was second to last in runs in 2019.
Miami is exploring free agent batters, including South Florida-native Nicholas Castellanos, who many believe will be out of the club’s price range.
Ideally, the Marlins may wind up signing free agents to one or two year deals. But they aren’t ruling out anything.
“There’s so much time left in the offseason, so things change,” Hill said. “That’s why you continue to stay in touch with representatives, and players. Just so you can monitor where things are going. There may be players you think are out of your reach, for whatever reason, their objectives change, and they may come back into focus.
“From our standpoint, we always want to be open. We want to be flexible. We want to stay connected to what the marketplace is doing, so when things do change you have the ability to change and make decisions.”
* The big news at the Winter Meetings on Monday was All-Star right-hander Stephen Strasburg returning to the Nationals for a record-setting, seven-years, $245 million, the richest contract for a pitcher.
The Nationals retaining Strasburg is a reminder the National League East promises to remain strong for the foreseeable future.
“We feel we’re in the toughest division in baseball,” Hill said. “When you look at the Nationals, you look at the Mets, you look at the Phillies, you look at the Braves. There’s as much talent in our division as there is with anyone in baseball.”
* Right-hander José Ureña, entering his second arbitration year, has become a potential trade candidate. Ureña was Miami’s Opening Day starter the past two seasons, but missed a couple of months with a herniated disc in 2019. In the final month of the season, he was used in relief. Miami recently tendered the 28-year-old a contract for 2020, after he went 4-10 with a 5.21 ERA in 24 games, with 13 starts.
But being tendered, doesn’t mean Miami can’t Ureña, who has experience as a starter and a reliever, along with two more years of club control.