2016 Canadian draft list
Letters of Intent
By Danny Gallagher
This is a tale of two southpaw pitchers, both with Canadian connections, both trying to revive careers that went downhill following the 2012 season.
They have never been the same. Will Scott Diamond and Ricky Romero get to strut their stuff on a steady basis again in the majors or are they doomed to be in the minors on a consistent basis with only the odd callup?
All kind of sad.
Both are still young. Diamond, a Guelph, Ont. native, who was 12-9 with the Minnesota Twins from May 8 on in 2012, is a mere 28. Romero, who compiled an eye-catching 15-11 record and a 2.92 ERA with the Blue Jays in 2011 but fell to 9-14 in 2012, is 30.
Following the 2012 season, the small-market Twins thought so much of Diamond that they gave him extra money than they would normally do for a player under their control before salary arbitration. He received $530,000 for 2013, an amount that beat the $510,000 the large-market Anaheim Angels gave slugger Mike Trout.
Diamond had 44 less service days than Trout but the Angels didn’t want to give in much despite his season for the ages: .326 average, 30 homers, 83 RBIs, 129 runs and 49 steals. Trout’s agent Craig Landis unleashed a statement at the time, criticizing the Angels for their stinginess.
You know what has been done since then: Trout has quickly passed Diamond and is a fixture on the major-league scene. In fact, last season, the Angels gave him an almost-unheard of $1-million salary, which was a few hundred thousand dollars more than most teams would consider paying. He, too, was still under Angels’ control and was not eligible for arbitration.
Diamond, who pitched for Team Ontario and Binghamton University in N.Y., surprised many in baseball with his 2012 season, leaving team media personnel trying to figure out just how to pronounce Guelph. Some announcers simply just said he was from Ontario, Canada. Like Romero, Diamond went downhill and injuries got in the way.
Diamond couldn’t repeat what he did in 2012. He fell to 6-13 in 2013. Late in the 2014 season, the Twins released Diamond and he signed a minor-league contract with the Cincinnati Reds and pitched for the Triple-A team in Louisville, Ky. Here it is January and he faces an uncertain future.
Will anyone sign him and invite him to spring training? Why don’t the Blue Jays give him a shot like they did with fellow Canadian Jeff Francis? All it takes is a call to Diamond’s agent Joe Longo. I am told that several teams have shown interest in him.
If Diamond doesn’t sign with any team soon, he would be a great addition to Team Canada for the Pan Am Games baseball tournament set for the Toronto suburb of Ajax next July.
Unlike Diamond, Romero is set for life financially. He is still Jays’ property but in salary only. He’s not in their plans for 2015, except perhaps for Buffalo. In mid-August of 2010, Romero landed a five-year contract worth $30.1-million. Quite a gamble on the part of the Jays and GM Alex Anthoupoulos but Romero proved them right by fashioning an impressive record in 2011.
Romero and the Jays were expecting the same kind of production in 2012 since he had become their stud ace. But instead of a 14-9 record or something similar to that 15-11 record, Romero stumbled to 9-14, lost command of his pitches and walked too many batters. He was a way off course.
The Jays are on the hook to pay Romero $7.5-million this coming season and they have a $13.1-million option for 2016 but they will most likely buy him out for $600,000. The decision on exercising/declining that option is coming soon. Don’t be surprised if the Jays try to work out some deal with Romero and his Legacy group agents to buy out his contract before spring training. Romero’s decline in stature and his salary have chased away any potential suitors but if the Jays buy him out, then watch teams come after him to give him a chance since the Jays would be paying the bulk of his salary for 2015.
Here’s hoping Diamond and Romero get back to the majors this season and duplicate what they did earlier this decade.