The baseball offseason is often about change. But for contending teams like the White Sox, maintaining the status quo in certain areas is just as important to realizing championship dreams.
The South Siders would like to make sure their power-hitting ways carry over into 2021. Same with their 1-2 pitching punch of Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. And same with their bullpen, which was excellent in 2020.
Of course, to achieve that last one, there's some work to be done.
Closer Alex Colomé is a free agent. And while the White Sox have no shortage of talented relief arms that would be logical options for the ninth inning, bringing Colomé back would accomplish that goal of maintaining the status quo in the bullpen.
Colomé was darn near automatic in his two seasons as the White Sox closer after coming over in a trade with the Seattle Mariners. He converted on 42 of his 46 save opportunities, posting a 2.27 ERA in 83.1 innings of work. Though his first- and second-half splits revealed some potential concerns in 2019 — mostly over a lack of strikeouts — Colomé put any worries to bed with a lockdown 2020 campaign in which he surrendered just two earned runs in 21 appearances.
The win-now White Sox, as they showed by swapping out Rick Renteria for Tony La Russa in the manager's chair, are on the hunt for dependability. It's difficult to find a closer who's been more dependable than Colomé over the last several seasons.
"We're elated that we have him," Renteria said of Colomé at the end of the 2020 season. "He's a veteran who knows what he's doing. His pulse never rises above 50, 40, I don't know what it is. He's got ice in his veins. ... Certainly we wouldn't be where we're at without him."
More than just providing peace of mind for the team and its fans, though, Colomé has had an influence on the young arms who have sat in the bullpen with him the past two seasons. Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall, Codi Heuer, Matt Foster, they'd all be candidates to succeed Colomé, if it came to that. But they also benefit greatly from his presence in the 'pen.
"I love watching him do his thing," Heuer said. "He’s been doing it for a while now. He’s our horse, the 'Caballo.' Every time I see him get up and get his work day in and come out and close the game for us, I try to watch really closely because he’s been doing it for a while and doing it right for a reason. I’m trying to pick up little things here and there and see what makes him click."
"Everybody loves to watch Colomé throw because he's the man," Foster said. "It's definitely awesome to see him go out there. He goes out and attacks with the two pitches. And it doesn't matter who's up or what the situation is, when Colomé goes out there, we know that the job's going to get done and we're going to get away with it."
Bringing Colomé back doesn't just lock down the ninth inning for the White Sox. It allows them to keep those other hurlers in the roles they flourished in last season. That shortens the game for the starting pitchers and goes even further to accomplishing the goal of dependability in the late innings.
There are other really good closers on the free-agent market this winter, chiefly Liam Hendriks and Brad Hand. And the White Sox might have a future All-Star closer already in their bullpen, be it Bummer, Heuer or even Garrett Crochet. But Colomé is a known commodity and a very good one, at that. The White Sox head into 2021 with championship expectations, and the more reliability they can accumulate, the better.