3:56pm: Minnesota’s “expected” to sign Colome, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets.
1:32pm: In addition to Colome, the Twins have shown interest in re-signing Clippard and in signing lefty Justin Wilson, Hayes further reports. Minnesota has also at least gauged the price tags of Shane Greene, Mark Melancon, Joakim Soria and Trevor Rosenthal, though the latter two could be seeking more than the Twins are comfortable committing to them, Hayes adds. It’s a wide slate of candidates, but the Twins could sign multiple relievers to bolster their relief corps.
9:07am: It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the Twins, but they’re still pursuing upgrades after finally agreeing to a new deal with designated hitter Nelson Cruz last night. Dan Hayes of The Athletic reports that the Twins have interest in adding Alex Colome to their bullpen and are still looking at options to fill out their rotation. Twins fans hoping to see the club roll the dice on a Mike Foltynewicz rebound after watching his recent showcase may not get their wish, though, as SKOR North’s Darren Wolfson tweets that a signing is “more unlikely than likely.” Wolfson does suggest that the Twins have a current offer out to a reliever.
This isn’t the first time the Twins have been tied to Colome. However, in the month since that initial link, they’ve spent a combined $31.5MM on Cruz, Andrelton Simmons and J.A. Happ, so maintained interest in one of the better relievers remaining on the market wasn’t necessarily a given. The Twins currently project to open the season with a payroll in the $123MM range, but they’d have been north of $130MM last year prior to prorated salaries.
Owner Jim Pohlad recently voiced a vastly different mindset than many of his counterparts throughout the league, telling reporters he’s not looking at ways to “make up” for lost revenue from the 2020 season by slashing payroll (link via La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune).
“We don’t really think of it like that,” Pohlad said in a Zoom call. “I’m not sure if we can ever make up for it. None of our objective includes trying to make up for what happened in 2020. It was significant. It was devastating. And you have to accept that as a loss going forward and not make it a goal to recover those losses either from fans or by affecting our payroll. That’s not the mind-set we have been in at all.”
The Twins’ recent activity reflects that outlook, and a deal with Colome would only further illustrate that stance. The 32-year-old spent the past two seasons as the closer for the division-rival White Sox. In 83 1/3 innings with the South Siders, he’s pitched to a 2.27 ERA and racked up 42 saves, although the rest of his numbers don’t look as dominant. Colome’s 20.9 percent strikeout rate is below-average in today’s game, and he’s registered a rather pedestrian 3.78 FIP and 4.42 SIERA.
With the White Sox, Colome leaned aggressively on a two-pitch arsenal, throwing four-seamers and cutters exclusively — the latter nearly thrice as often as the former. In 2019, he got away with that mix despite giving up far too much hard contact, but he seemed to improve his utilization of that two-pitch mix in 2020.
Colome’s hard-hit rate fell sharply, from 41.2 percent to 32.8 percent, and only two of the balls put into play against him registered as “barreled balls,” per Statcast’s definition. Opponents’ average exit velocity against Colome plummeted from 91.3 percent in 2019 — one of the highest marks in baseball — to a lower-than-average 87.2 mph in 2020. And, despite registering one of the lowest strikeout percentages of his career last season, Colome actually posted career-high marks in swinging-strike rate and in opponents’ chase rate, which surely creates some optimism about his ability to rebound in the strikeout department.
For all the focus on the Twins’ rotation this winter, it’s the bullpen that’s a more dire area of need at the moment. The quartet of Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda and Happ gives the Twins four solid options atop the starting staff, but the bullpen has quietly been depleted. Minnesota lost Trevor May to the Mets and Matt Wisler (who was non-tendered) to the Giants. Veterans Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard, meanwhile, are both free agents and remain unsigned. Taylor Rogers is still the favorite for saves in Minnesota for now, although Colome would give manager Rocco Baldelli another ninth-inning option with some experience. The fact that Baldelli and Colome know each other well from their time together with the Rays can’t hurt the Twins’ chances at a deal.