Old school closing: Despite what metrics said, Alex Colome with 30 saves had an excellent 2019. (@whitesox)
“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:
- Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
- Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
- Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
- Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
- Free agent options at that position
This article delves into the career of Alex Colomé through 2018, his 2019 season with the White Sox, and what his future looks like in the White Sox organization.
How did he get here?
Colomé, a native of the Dominican Republic, signed an international contract with the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays on March 27, 2007 as an 18-year-old. He slowly worked his way up the farm system as a starting pitcher until debuting against the Marlins on May 30, 2013, striking out seven in 5 2/3 innings of work. He bounced back-and-forth from 2013-15 with the Rays, finally staying for good in 2015. That year for the Rays in 43 appearances (13 starts) spanning 109 2/3 innings, Colomé produced a 3.94 ERA and 1.30 WHIP by relinquishing 112 hits (.271 OBA) and 31 walks (6.8%) while striking out 88 (19.3%).
The following year (2016) saw Colomé reach his career-bests in ERA, WHIP and FIP. In 57 games totaling 56 2/3 innings that year, he compiled 37 saves with a 1.91 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 2.92 FIP as he surrendered 43 hits (.206 OBA) and 15 walks (7.1%) while fanning 71 (33.6%). Colomé reached his career-high in saves with 47 in 2017 while he compiled a 3.24 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 65 games spanning 66 2/3 innings. That year, he allowed 57 hits (.232 OBA) and 23 walks (8.2%) while striking out 58 (20.6%).
After saving 12 games for the Rays through late June 2018, he was traded along with outfielder Denard Span and cash to the Mariners for pitchers Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero. Although his role with Seattle was altered from closer to setup man thanks to the presence of Edwin Diaz, Colomé still provided the same quality results. In 70 combined games (68 innings) with both teams, he compiled a 3.04 ERA and 1.18 WHIP by allowing 59 hits (.230 OBA) and 21 walks (7.4%) while striking out 72 (25.5%). Two months after the season ended, he was traded to the White Sox for offensive-minded catcher Omar Narváez.
With the White Sox in 2019
Despite Colomé’s struggles in the stretch run, he was quite the stabilizing force in what was at times a tumultuous bullpen during the 2019 season. With 30 saves, Colomé was successful in all but three attempts. In a total of 62 games spanning 61 innings for the year, he allowed just 42 hits (.191 OBA) and 23 walks (9.2%) while striking out 55 (22.1%). It didn’t matter if it was lefties or righties facing him, Colomé was equally effective against both (.190 vs. lefties, .192 vs. righties). Of course, as mentioned throughout the season ad nauseum, Colomé’s metrics indicate he may have been lucky (4.09 FIP, .215 BABIP). When you look at his entire career, Colomé has outperformed his FIP in all but the 2015 seasons. There’s clearly something to be said about pitchers simply making the right pitches at the opportune times.
Colomé used his cutter 68.3% of the time this year, and it was far more effective than his four-seamer. Against the cutter (which averaged 90.4 mph per Baseball Savant), hitters slashed just .174/.222/.299. Colomé used his four-seamer, which averaged 94.4 mph, 28.8% of the time; against that offering, hitters fared much better at .273/.417/.412. His third offering, a changeup, was used quite sparingly at 2.9% frequency. Hitters didn’t do much damage off of that surprise offering, as they slashed just .111/.193/.222 against it.
Metrics haven’t really caught up to the value of a closer. Thus despite his solid year, Colomé attained a bWAR of just 1.0. Considering each bWAR is worth approximately $7.7 million on the free agent market per FanGraphs, taking into account his 2019 salary of $7.325 million, Colomé produced a net value of $325,000. Colomé will be eligible for arbitration this offseason and is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2020 campaign.
What does his future have in store?
As mentioned above, metrics don’t take kindly to pitchers like Colomé. In fact, despite a mostly solid relieving career to date in which he’s posted 126 saves, he’s amassed only a 6.7 bWAR. With that said, there’s something to be said for Colomé being a relatively calming influence in the clubhouse. After all, there are few things more devastating in a baseball season than leads blown in the ninth inning.
While the White Sox certainly have had some success in the bullpen in 2019 with the likes of Aaron Bummer, Jimmy Cordero and Evan Marshall among others, none of them have real major league experience closing games on a regular basis. Colomé’s consistency means that the others won’t have to switch roles. There are certainly quality closer arms in the minors, but most have had their progress delayed due to a combination of ineffectiveness and injuries.
Barring a trade for an even more effective closer, it seems likely that Colomé will be tendered arbitration. (MLB Trade Rumors predicts an arbitration salary of $10.3 million.) It’s unlikely that the White Sox will extend Colomé beyond 2020 due to the vast number of quality arms in the system, but one never knows what the baseball gods will have in store for the White Sox. If the White Sox are out of the playoff picture by next year’s trade deadline, Colomé could be made available for teams needing closers or reliable setup guys — just don’t count on receiving too much, due to the aforementioned metrics.