MINNEAPOLIS -- The free-agent dominoes are now falling quickly for the Twins -- and this time, they continued to move down their checklist by addressing a major need in the bullpen.
The Twins and right-hander Alex Colomé on Friday finalized a one-year contract that was first reported last week. The deal will pay Colomé $5 million and includes a mutual option for 2022 with a $1.25 million buyout, sources told MLB.com. The former White Sox closer won't assume sole control of the ninth-inning role in Minnesota, but he'll continue to bolster the back end of the Twins' bullpen alongside Taylor Rogers, Hansel Robles and Tyler Duffey, among other options.
If both sides exercise their option for 2022, Colomé will be paid a base salary of $5.5 million. He'll be paid the $1.25 million buyout if the Twins decline their end of the mutual option, but he'll forfeit the buyout if he decides to opt out and test the market, according to a source.
In a corresponding move, the Twins designated right-hander Ian Hamilton for assignment. Hamilton was claimed off waivers from Philadelphia last Friday, and the Twins are likely hoping that he'll slide through waivers and remain in the organization. In that mold, left-hander Brandon Waddell cleared waivers on Friday after he was designated for assignment to make roster space for waiver claim Kyle Garlick. Waddell will be a non-roster invitee to Major League camp.
The Twins' offseason may have started slowly, but over the course of five days in late January and early February, they committed $28.5 million in guarantees to three players who will look to figure prominently into their plans for 2021. Over that stretch, they made official their previously reported one-year agreement with shortstop Andrelton Simmons ($10.5 million) and struck a deal with Nelson Cruz to return as designated hitter (one year, $13 million). Now, Colomé, too, has entered the fray.
Though the offensive picture looked largely settled after Cruz agreed to return to Minnesota, there remained a glaring need in the relief corps, as the Twins had lost Matt Wisler, Tyler Clippard, Sergio Romo and Trevor May to free agency and had only added Robles earlier in the offseason.
In Colomé, the Twins gain consistent productivity with plenty of recent experience pitching in high-leverage situations in the late innings. The 32-year-old most recently had an exceptional two-year tenure with the White Sox, with whom he posted a 2.27 ERA with 42 saves in 83 games.
He was particularly lights-out in 2020, when he pitched to an 0.81 ERA in 21 appearances. He allowed barrels (optimal combinations of launch angle and exit velocity) on only 3.1 percent of contact last year, ranking in the top 5 percent in the Majors. His strikeout rate did fall in 2020, but his average exit velocity and hard-hit rate allowed both improved.
He has pitched at a high level throughout his eight-year career with the Rays, Mariners and White Sox, as indicated by his 2.95 career ERA in 326 appearances. His highest single-season ERA in that time has been 3.94, during the 2015 campaign -- and he made 13 starts that season before making his full-time transition to the bullpen. Since then, he's never posted worse than a 3.24 ERA as a reliever.
Colomé has notched 138 saves since the beginning of 2016, ranking third in MLB behind Kenley Jansen and Edwin Díaz during that span.
The bullpen was a significant part of the Twins' ability to win a second straight division title in 2020, as the 3.5 WAR posted by Twins relievers ranked third in baseball behind only the Rays and Dodgers. Despite all of the losses to free agency, that bullpen is once again beginning to take shape.
Rogers, Robles, Duffey and Colomé have the makings of a solid late-innings core, and rookie standout Jorge Alcala should also step forward into a more prominent role. Cody Stashak has impressed in his young career, and Caleb Thielbar will also look to carry his success from 2020 into the new year. Still, it's a young bullpen that has lost plenty of big-game experience and will count on bouncebacks from Rogers and Robles, who both fought through challenges in '20.
The Twins also added J.A. Happ earlier in the offseason and could still be in the market for more pitching help to finish off their quickly developing haul.