The Rays are rumored to be getting closer to working out a trade involving Alex Colome.
Colome’s two seasons in the closer role (2016-2017) have had many higlights but it’s fair to say that it hasn’t exactly been the most dominant performance in MLB and many of his appearances require fans to have a jumbo bottle of antacid tablets nearby.
Indeed Colome’s years with the Rays have had their share of turmoil
In 2014, Alex Colome was suspended for 50 games “after testing positive for steroid use, likely a metabolite of Boldenon, an anabolic steroid developed for veterinary use, mostly for treatment of horses.” , and since that point, he’s been hearing a whole lot of horse jokes, which he also has fun with:
The point is that he got to the closing role thereafter, bearing down and getting to work in order to put up two great - albeit differing - seasons that saw him near or at the top of the list in AL saves.
Before the 2016 season began, Colome was ranked as the 43rd best relief option by the Sporting News, behind Danny Farquhar and then closer Brad Boxberger. But as we all know, things change quickly in bullpens, and they did for Colome and the Rays.
In 2016, Boxberger was injured, and Colome got his shot, and boy did he run with it. He was a pretty dominant closer as he went on to earn 37 saves in 40 chances while putting impressive stats. He finished with impressive 1.91 ERA and 1.02 whip, and struck out 71 batters in just 56.2 innings of work.
That performance earned him the role once again in 2017, and that’s where things start to wobble, just a little.
In 2017, Colome’s stats all took a step backwards, even as he remained mostly effective. His ERA jumped to 3.24, and his SO rate went from 11.8/9 to 7.8/9 while his BB/9 went from 2.38 to 3.11. MLB likely had better scouting on Colome, but his pitch mix also changed substantially as he leaned more on his cutter than his sinker in 2017 as compared to 2016, as you can see here courtesy Brooks Baseball.
However, he still earned the most saves of any AL closer (47 with 6 blown saves) and remained one of the more settling forces at the back of a pen that needed him badly. His month of August, when he earned 10 saves, earned him the reliever of the month nod and here are the highlights as a reminder of what he has to offer an acquiring team.
With this in mind, and the knowledge that he may be on the market, how do we compare his value to other closer deals made? It’s not something that happens often, and rarely if ever under the same conditions. Still, let’s see where a few comparable trades can take us.
Trading Alex Colome: Comparables
If we look at recent trades of closers/ potential closers, four seem relevant to a Colome trade. A few point to floors, one to ceiling, and one gets closer to what value may be attainable. Of course, the three years of remaining control for Colome and his relatively affordable 2018 salary of around $5.5M has to be taken into account.
1. Cubs acquire Wade Davis in return for Jorge Soler.
Evaluation: This one can’t be a direct comparable, but I do think it points to a “floor” value, meaning that whatever the Rays get in return for Colome should be much more than simply Soler. After all, there are three years of control included with Colome, and Davis - at the time of the trade - was coming off an injury riddled season and was paired with only one year of control at $10M.
Evaluation: This is a tough one to call, because there are two relief pitchers involved, and one has two years of control (Madson), while the other has three (Doolittle) There are three pieces as part of the returns, which has you wondering who they valued most.
Hard to tell at this point, but what’s interesting is that Madson will cost the Nats just over $7.6M, only $2.1M more than Colome in 2018. To be honest, it seems like the Athletics did not get full value here, and that the Rays may be able to fair better.
Because the value is hard to discern here, we’ll also make it part of the “floor” and seek “ceiling” value in the next 2 examples.
It’s obvious that being a more dominant, and left-handed, reliever, Miller would likely garner more value than what we’d expect for Colome. But it’s interesting to note that the Indians valued relief pitching so much that they were willing to part with two of their top four prospects (Frazier #2 and Sheffield #4 per BA pre-2016) as well as another top 30 prospect and one outside the top 30.
Not only did the Yankees extract top talent, they also got depth in this deal. This is definitely above the ceiling the Rays can expect for Colome, but it does represent the value in acquiring a dominant back-end relief pitching.
4. Rockies acquire LHP Jake McGee and RHP prospect German Marquez from the Rays in return for OF Corey Dickerson and 3B prospect Kevin Padlo.
Now we’re getting closer. This was the perfect “need-for-need” deal which allowed for both teams to improve in areas where they needed to improve. McGee was owed $4.4M for the first season and came with one more year of arbitration control. He had closing experience, and was seen as a possible replacement for Rockies closer Adam Ottavino who had undergone TJ surgery.
Since Marquez was a higher ranked prospect than Padlo at the time (5th among Rockies post-trade compared to 22nd among Rays prospects for Padlo), we can assume that Dickerson was the most valuable piece in this trade and so the Rockies wanted to balance the deal with a prospect. (The caveat is that value is always in eye of beholder, so this is only a theory used to help us evaluate possible value of Colome)
With Colome’s extra year of control and the added bonus of his being the saves leader for 2017, he could even be considered in a 1 for 1 situation in a trade such as the one noted above.
Alright, well let’s use this information to look at the interested teams and who the Rays may target out of the bunch in order to help their weakest areas, which are arguably a power capable RHB, catcher of the future, first base and/or DH help, and depth in OF options.
Trading Alex Colome: Interested Teams and Possible Targets
Because I believe the Rays are stacked with pitching and will instead focus acquisition efforts on bringing in position players, that’s what I’ll focus on below. Here are the most obvious targets:
Astros - OF Kyle Tucker (LHB), OF Derek Fisher (LHB)
Those are the main obvious fits, which leads us to the last point and main one for this article. I tried to find a fit with the Twins but couldn’t come up with any options that made sense on both sides.
What’s the least the Rays should accept in an Alex Colome trade?
The least they should accept lies between the Andrew Miller trade noted above and above the returns for Jake McGee. How much exactly is hard to pinpoint, but at minimum, a trade with any team should include one MLB (or MLB ready) player that can have an impact on the Rays fortunes in 2018. Depending on how much value that player has, he may or may not be accompanied with prospects.
Of course this assumes he’s traded on his own, which is no sure thing given the state of the budget and the reported willingness of the Rays to include others in trade (Odorizzi and Miller, most of all).
So the answer to the question seems to lie along the line of one of the names above as part of the return, with complimentary pieces depending on what value each team places, and with the possibility of a 1 for 1 deal in a few cases.
With the value of closers moving higher year-after-year, and with Colome being the saves leader at a very affordable wage and controllable, his value may never be greater. That said, there are also many options on the market this year, which hikes the competition level, but also displays just how affordable Colome is in comparison.
That in itself, and the tight Rays budget, almost assure that he’ll be dealt if the Rays feel they’re getting get fair value.
What package do you see the Rays landing for Colome? Or, are you part of the few who believe he’ll remain with the Rays to close in 2018? What do you want in return for this guy?