Nats add veteran reliever Colomé on minor league deal

The Nationals added another experienced reliever this afternoon to what already looked like a deep bullpen, signing veteran right-hander Alex Colomé to a minor league deal with an invitation to big league camp.

Colomé, 34, isn’t guaranteed a spot on the Opening Day roster and will have to prove himself during spring training. But his lengthy track record as a late-inning reliever should give him a leg up over others trying to break camp with the club.

The Nationals have long been intrigued by Colomé, his name having come up several times in the past when they were searching for late-inning help at the trade deadline. Only now, on the heels of back-to-back rough seasons with the Twins and Rockies, is he finally joining the club.

Owner of 159 career saves, Colomé was an All-Star with a 1.91 ERA in 2016 and closed out 47 games for the Rays in 2017, leading the league.

Traded the following year to the Mariners – along with former Nationals center fielder Denard Span – he continued to enjoy success in Seattle and then in Chicago with the White Sox. At the end of the 2020 season, he sported a 2.95 ERA and 1.177 WHIP across 326 big league appearances.

Things turned south, though, after Colomé signed with the Twins in 2021 and continued last season with the Rockies. Over the last two years, his ERA has shot up to 4.82, his WHIP to 1.518.

Long a two-pitch reliever, Colomé has seen the effectiveness of both his four-seam fastball and his cutter drop precipitously in recent years. Opponents hit .277 and slugged .428 off his cutter last season; they hit just .154 and slugged just .200 on that pitch in 2020. The difference was even more glaring on his four-seam fastball: Opponents whacked that pitch to the tune of a .529 batting average and 1.059 slugging percentage last season, a far cry from the .200 average and .491 slugging percentage they produced off it in 2020.

The Nationals already figured to open the season with Kyle Finnegan, Carl Edwards Jr. and Hunter Harvey all returning as late-inning relievers, with Sean Doolittle also hoping to return off his own minor league deal following elbow surgery last summer. If Colomé performs well this spring and earns his way onto the roster as well, the Nats potentially would have one of their deepest bullpens to open a season in years.

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