The headline may sound harsh, but it’s meant to. But before you think that anyone is speaking poorly of either the Cincinnati Reds or of Sal Romano, take a deep breath and understand that is not what is happening here. Earlier today Romano cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Louisville by the Reds. He got an invite to big league spring training, so he will be in camp and pitching for a job on the Reds. For Cincinnati, that’s a good thing.
But for Sal Romano, that’s not exactly a good thing. He’s no longer on the 40-man roster, and he’s also out of options, and now that he’s been designated for assignment once, he can also choose free agency if he is designated for assignment again in the future. All of that works against him when it comes to getting any sort of call up to the big leagues unless the team is just about certain that he’s going to stick for good.
It also doesn’t exactly make too much sense that every team in baseball passed on adding him to their 40-man roster. In some instances passing up on a guy with 41 career Major League starts under his belt who averaged over 96 MPH with his fastball last season might make some sense. Does it make sense for a team that’s completely loaded with pitching to pick him up given that he had no options? No, maybe it didn’t.
But then we take a look at a team like the Baltimore Orioles. Obviously there’s a lot of things that are going to happen between today and Opening Day, but here is what the current top five starters on the Baltimore Depth Chart look like and what they did last season in the Major Leagues:
The projected #5, #6, and #7 starters have never thrown a big league pitch. The #8 starter gave up 28 home runs last year in 80.0 innings. Their #2 and #3 starters combined for 37.2 innings in the big leagues last year, and in those innings they got absolutely obliterated.
While there’s only so much faith you put in a projection system, ZiPS has released their projections for 27 of the 30 Major League teams so far this offseason. While Dan Szymborski has threatened to Karate Chop anyone just adding up the WAR total from the depth charts, I’ve been doing it anyways. And among the 27 rotations in baseball that have had their ZiPS posted, the Orioles are dead last. And they are dead last by a large amount. If you doubled the projected Orioles starting pitching WAR they would still be in last place by 1.2 WAR. There are multiple Cincinnati Reds pitchers projected for more WAR in 2020 than the entire Baltimore Orioles rotation.
That team decided that Sal Romano couldn’t help them. Somehow they came to the conclusion that even as a depth option to look at in spring training as a starting pitcher, was not worth it. And I can’t figure out how that’s possible. The Orioles have questions up and down their entire rotation outside of John Means. It would be one thing if they passed on someone with a David Price-like salary. But Romano will be making the league minimum, so there’s no real risk. If he wasn’t one of your 13 best pitchers at the end of the spring, then you can designate him for assignment. We’ll have to wait and see how the Baltimore pitching staff performs in 2020, but it’s tough to make sense of how they decided to pass on a guy like Romano.