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Alex Colome leads all of baseball in saves, and it's not even close

“The Horse” just can’t stop racking up saves.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Remember that stretch in late June/early July when we were all worried about Alex Colome? Yeah, that was silly.

The Rays relief ace now has 42 saves on the season, a career-high and five higher than anyone else in baseball.

MLB saves leaders (FanGraphs)

Player Saves Blown saves ERA FIP WAR
Player Saves Blown saves ERA FIP WAR
Alex Colome 42 5 3.06 3.41 1.1
Greg Holland 37 4 3.73 3.83 0.8
Kenley Jansen 36 1 1.19 1.26 3.2
Fernando Rodney 36 5 4.17 3.20 1.1
Roberto Osuna 35 10 3.66 1.83 2.6
Craig Kimbrel 32 4 1.53 1.30 2.9

That’s right, Colome has blasted past the rest of the league and now holds a sizable league lead in the most-valued reliever statistic. (Side note: How incredibly bonkers is Kenley Jansen, like really dude?)

Alex Colome’s aforementioned struggles came from June 20 to July 4, as he gave up 10 runs in five games, blowing one save and taking one loss.

Luckily the Rays didn’t decide to saddle anyone else with the closer’s role because, outside of that stretch, he has allowed just 11 earned runs in 56.2 innings, good for a 1.75 ERA. Better yet, Colome has allowed only two runs since the end of July and hasn’t blown a save since July 27.

What that means for 2017

While Colome doesn’t have the same resume or reputation as someone like Craig Kimbrel, he has been just as good, if not better, at his number one job as the Red Sox flamethrower this season.

Colome has 42 saves in 47 opportunities (89.4 percent save success); Kimbrel has 32 saves in 36 opportunities this season (88.9 percent save success).

Sure he may have given the Rays and their fans a bit of a scare during the middle of the season, but Alex Colome has proven in 2017 that 2016 was no fluke, and at the eighth pole, he looks like he’s jockeying for position as one of the best closers in baseball, if not the most successful.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What that means for the future

It’s a bit early to start speculating about the future, but it looks like El Caballo isn’t going to be horsing around when he begins salary arbitration in 2018.

Right now the first-time arb record for a relief pitcher is the $6.25 million that Jonathan Papelbon received in 2009. While that sort of a figure might seem wild at first blush, baseball salaries are only trending upwards, and Colome could be entering the negotiations with over 100 career saves.

Papelbon was at 151 saves and had four seasons-worth of saves before his first arbitration hearing, so maybe Colome would be a bit cheaper, but Trevor Rosenthal earned $5.6 million in 2016 with right around the same number of saves Colome will likely have (110 for Rosenthal).

The Rays have had a few pricey relievers on their books in years past (Heath Bell at $9 million; Grant Balfour at $7.5 million; Rafael Soriano at $7.25 million), but Bell was acquired with cash, and neither Balfour or Soriano were long term commitments. Soriano couldn’t be re-signed, and the other two were released shortly after their season’s started.

For a team on as tight a budget as the Rays, handing out multiple millions to a reliever is usually not in their plans.

In other words, Colome’s hefty price may likely spur the Rays into making him trade bait in the future, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the ride while it lasts.