The Cardinals and Rays have had trades talks involving Rays closer Alex Colome, per Jon Morosi of MLB.com.
The Cardinals are in need of bullpen help this offseason, as Seung-Hwan Oh, who began 2017 as their closer, struggled and was removed from the ninth-inning role at midseason, and he’s now unlikely to be re-signed as a free agent this offseason. His replacement, Trevor Rosenthal, was very effective but had to undergo Tommy John surgery in August, and St. Louis released him rather than tendering him a contract for his final year of arbitration eligibility.
There have been talks about the Cardinals re-signing converted starter Juan Nicasio, who St. Louis acquired in September and was perfect in four save opportunities, to fill the closer’s role. But as MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch wrote this week, Cardinals GM Michael Girsch has said that the front office’s “preference would be someone who has closing experience” as they look to fill the ninth-inning role.
Colome, who will be 29 next season, would be an ideal fit if the Cardinals are trying to acquire an established closer who’s still in his prime, and in most years where Zach Britton wasn’t potentially on the block, he’d be the best closer on the trade market. He made his first All-Star team in 2016, pitching to the tune of a 1.91 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with 37 saves over 57 outings. And while he endured a rough stretch in June, he was extremely effective for the most part in 2017, posting a 3.24 ERA and 1.20 WHIP while leading the majors with 47 saves over 65 appearances.
Colome is under club control for three more seasons (he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter) and thus will be less expensive than free agents such as Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and even Addison Reed. With that said, the fact that he’s so inexpensive yet effective means the Rays will be able to command a major return if they decide to deal him. While Tampa may be heading into another mini-rebuilding phase, there’s little incentive for the front office to trade him if the return package doesn’t meet their needs.
If the Cardinals are serious about their pursuit of Colome, though, they’ve got a wealth of prospects and a surplus of major-league ready outfielders from which to trade. Five Cardinals prospects were ranked among MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects in baseball at the most recent update, and the organization boasts 11 outfielders who played either in the majors or the upper minors in 2017 and are considered potential big-league contributors next season. With Tampa likely to lose Logan Morrison and Lucas Duda this offseason, Stephen Piscotty could be of intrigue considering his previous experience at first base, even though he’s entering the second year of a six-year contract worth $33.5 million.