The Dodgers plan to select the contract of outfielder Stefen Romero on Wednesday, reports J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group. He’ll take the place of infielder Hanser Alberto, who is being placed on the paternity list. It’ll be Romero’s first big league appearance since 2016, capping a six-year odyssey that’s taken him around the world.
Once one of the Mariners’ most promising outfield prospects, Romero made his big league debut as a 25-year-old back in 2014 but scuffled to a .192/.234/.299 output over the course of 72 games. He saw more limited Major League time in each of the next two seasons in Seattle, but despite consistently laying waste to Triple-A pitching, he received only sparse looks and never produced much in those infrequent opportunities.
Following the 2016 season, the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball approached Romero and the Mariners about a potential opportunity, and the M’s granted a then-28-year-old Romero his release in order to sign overseas. Romero was an instant success in Japan, hitting .274/.330/.508 with 26 home runs in the first of would wind up being five seasons in NPB. His second year with the Buffaloes wasn’t as strong, but Romero hit .305/.363/.539 in his third season year with Orix. He then signed on with the Rakuten Eagles for a year and turned in a similarly hearty .274/.354/.539 line during the 2020 campaign.
A return endeavor with the Buffaloes in 2021 lasted just 31 games, but Romero’s five-year stint in NPB nevertheless finished with a solid .264/.331/.497 batting line to go along with 96 home runs, 67 doubles and four triples. He inked a minor league deal with the Dodgers this offseason in hopes of securing a return to the big leagues, and he’ll now realize that dream after beginning the season with a .270/.337/.461 showing in Triple-A Oklahoma City.
It’s possible that this will prove to be a short stay on the big league roster for Romero. Alberto’s stay on the paternity list will be between one and three days, and Romero is out of minor league options, so he can’t be sent back down without first being passed through outright waivers.
The Dodgers do have a need for a right-handed-hitting outfielder at the moment, however, as they’re trying to cobble together a right field platoon while Mookie Betts mends from a cracked rib. They reacquired Trayce Thompson yesterday and appear set to give him the first shot at serving as Eddy Alvarez’s platoon partner, but Romero is also a righty stick who can slot into right field. He’s managed just a .219/.278/.344 slash against lefties in 2022, but that’s come over just 36 plate appearances, so it’s hard to glean much from such a minuscule sample.
Even if it’s a brief stay in the big leagues this time around, today will surely be a day to remember for Romero, whose last MLB appearance came on Aug. 19, 2016 — when he was summoned to the Majors for one game (his lone Major League appearance of that season’s second half). But with the Dodgers’ outfield and bench situations currently in something of a state of flux, it’s at least possible he’ll have the opportunity to carve out a role — at least while Betts is sidelined.