The Twins now have multiple options to close out games.
The two-time defending American League Central champs agreed to a contract with reliever Alex Colome, who spent the past two seasons as the closer for the division rival White Sox.
The contract will pay him $5 million in 2021, and the Twins have a $5.5 million option for 2022 or can pay a $1.25 million buyout. If they pick up the option, and Colome declines to become a free agent, there would be no buyout.
The 32-year-old righthander has pitched for Tampa Bay, Seattle and the White Sox. He led the American League with 47 saves in 2017 for the Rays.
Lefthander Taylor Rogers saved 30 games in 2019 and nine last year during the pandemic-shortened season for the Twins. But he struggled at times last season while posting a career high 4.05 ERA, largely because he gave up 11.7 hits per nine innings. Veteran righthander Sergio Romo was called upon to save five games late in the season.
Colome was 2-0 with a 0.81 ERA and 12 saves over 22⅓ innings for the White Sox in 2020 with eight walks and 16 strikeouts. His strikeout rate of 6.4 per nine innings was his lowest since 2014, but he remained effective through heavy use of a cut fastball.
It wasn't always that way with Colome, who threw 94 mph fastballs early in his career while mixing in sliders and changeups. But last season he threw his cut fastball 71.7% of the time, averaging 89.4 mph. He threw his four-seam fastball 28.3% of the time, averaging 94.4 mph. He has a solid fastball, but he's been Cutter Colome the past four seasons.
Like former Twins closer and fellow Dominican Fernando Rodney, Colome wears his hat at an angle. Tampa Bay signed him in 2007 when he was 19, and he made his major league debut in 2013. He served a 50-day suspension after testing positive for steroids before the 2014 season.
Colome was traded from Tampa Bay to Seattle early in the 2018 season, along with ex-Twins outfielder Denard Span, for two minor leaguers. The Mariners dealt him to the White Sox after that season for catcher Omar Narvaez.
It's not clear who will get the most save opportunities, but the Twins will enter the season planning to use both Rogers and Colome in the ninth inning.
The 6-1, 225-pounder will join a Twins bullpen in need of late-inning help after Romo and righthanders Tyler Clippard, Trevor May became free agents after the 2020 season. May eventually signed with the Mets. They also declined to offer arbitration to righthander Matt Wisler, despite the fact that he posted a 1.07 ERA.
The late-inning crew includes righthander Tyler Duffey, who sparkled at times while posting a 1.88 ERA. Righthander Cody Stashak has a 3.15 ERA through 29 major league appearances and has been effective in mid-to-late-inning appearances. Righthander Jorge Alcala had a 2.63 ERA last season and could step into May's role as a late-inning power arm.
Lefthander Caleb Thielbar returned to the majors for the first time since 2015 with a 2.70 ERA. Lefthander Devin Smeltzer can start but made six appearances out of the bullpen in 2020. Righthanders Sean Poppen and Edwar Colina have live arms but are raw.
The Twins are still sniffing around for bullpen help. But since Colome will take the last spot on their 40-man roster — once he passes a physical and signs the deal — any other additions will have to be minor league free agents with invites to training camp.