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The Rays should acquire a proven closer for 2017

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Alex Colome has been great as the closer, but it’s time to move him to the high leverage reliever that can pitch anytime.

The Rays should acquire a proven closer this off-season. Alex Colome has been really good since moving to the bullpen, but there are a few reasons why the Rays should look to employ a new face in the ninth inning.

It would enable the Rays to utilize Colome whenever it is needed and not just saving him for the ninth inning. This could be paid for by limiting Colome’s earnings in arbitration.

Move Colome to high leverage reliever and not just your guy you turn to in the ninth inning.

For years outsiders have been begging for managers to use their bullpens differently. The ninth inning isn’t necessarily the highest leverage situation in a game. Sometimes the time you need your big guns in the bullpen comes in the sixth or seventh inning.

In the playoffs we have already seen Terry Francona not use his best reliever for the final outs. He is utilizing Andrew Miller, a guy they paid a big price to acquire at the deadline from the Yankees, when he is needed. In game one of the ALDS that happened to be in the fifth inning. He threw two innings and was able to bridge the starter to the back end of the bullpen.

Now you can’t overuse your pitchers and throw him out there every game for one or more innings, but you can use your best reliever outside of the ninth inning. Francona is on record saying without having a reliable guy in Cody Allen already taking control of the ninth inning he wouldn’t be allowed the freedom to use Andrew Miller when it is necessary.

Relievers with saves get paid through the arbitration process.

I really hate that this is a thing, but it’s for the best of the organization. It’s not good for Colome who would lose millions of dollars even if he is the best reliever just being used differently. It’s the system the Rays have to work within, so it is what it is.

Player Service Time Saves Arb 1 Arb 2 Arb 3
Zach Britton 4.158 120 $3.20 $6.80 $11.40
Cody Allen 4.076 92 $4.20 $7.70
A.J. Ramos 4.03 72 $3.40 $6.80
Jeurys Familia 4.03 100 $4.10 $8.70
Trevor Rosenthal 4.058 110 $5.60 $6.30
Jeanmar Gomez 5.063 38 MiLB $1.40 $4.60
Shawn Tolleson 4.109 46 $3.30 $3.60
Sam Dyson 2.142 40 $3.90
Dellin Betances 3.078 22 $3.40

There is a large variety of guys who have picked up saves in this list from elite (Britton and Betances) to very good (Allen, Familia, and Ramos) to Jeanmar Gomez who transformed from a minor league deal two years ago to ending the season as the Phillies closer. Just by picking up saves it appears is worth a $3-4MM raise, and if you go off like Britton did, could be in line for a raise near $5MM.

Colome has earned 2.118 years of service time, so we are fortunate that he didn’t receive another ten or so days, that would have earned him $3MM+ a year for four seasons as he’d always be working from a much higher base salary as a Super 2. Luckily the Rays will be able to keep a firm hold of the one big time reliever they have, but at some point his cost will be prohibitive.

Colome has 37 saves and if he remains the closer for next season you would hope that number would build to around 80 going into his first season of arbitration. It all will depend on how he performs next year, but if he’s going to be the closer I would hope he picks up a large number of saves with a high innings total and low ERA.

If he has that quality of season you could see him earning around $5MM by performing just under Trevor Rosenthal’s 96 saves entering his first season of arbitration, well above Jeurys Familia’s 49 saves and Cody Allen’s 60 saves.

The $3MM+ raise that Jeanmar Gomez is expected to get shows just how massive saves are valued in arbitration even while having a 4.85 ERA this season. Having Colome’s first run through arbitration be closer to $3MM than $5MM will make sure Colome stays in Tampa Bay longer.

The main goal is to make the 2017 Rays team better.

Having a second reliable reliever entering the season would make the team better. If I were the manager or GM I would sit down with Colome and tell him this is entirely to make the team better and I have complete confidence in him as our best reliever. I would point to the Indians use of Andrew Miller by the Indians and even though he’s easily a top five reliever in the league that it would help the team.

I’m not entirely sure who the Rays should target as there are a lot of option in the free agent market. Obviously the Rays will not be able to afford guys like Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon, but the second tier is still solid. The Rays could go after Brad Ziegler, Sergio Romo, or Santiago Casilla, among others.

The $2MM a season you would save from shielding Colome from saves for the next couple of seasons could pay for half of what it would cost to acquire one of these guys.

I really hate that it’s taking money away from Colome that he will have earned if he stayed the closer, but this is entirely about the good of the team and working within the rules.