SEATTLE — Oh, this certainly sent a message. Loud and clear.
Alex Colome, an electric, All-Star caliber right-handed reliever, will now wear a Seattle Mariners uniform. So will veteran outfielder Denard Span after a Friday trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Mariners’ familiar trade partner.
“I think it’s an awesome message,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said prior to Friday’s home game against the Minnesota Twins. “That everything we’ve dealt with the past 8-10 days here … that we’re all in on this season.
“That even though we had the setback of losing Robbie (Cano) with the injury and then the suspension, it’s not going to derail us. Our eyes are set on our goal and that’s getting to the playoffs and I think this helps us.”
In exchange, the Mariners traded away minor league starting pitchers Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero. Seattle also gets $4.75 million in cash considerations.
But this was a clear win-now message, with the Mariners entering Friday with a record of 29-20 and in second place in the American League West that contains the defending-champion Houston Astros.
Colome is the big addition.
No pitcher in the American League has saved more games than Colome since 2016. His 95 saves in that span trails only the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen (98).
Colome saved and AL-best 47 games for the Rays last season and was an All-Star the season before with 37 saves, compiling a 2.63 ERA in that span. For his career, the 29-year-old is 17-18 with a 3.21 ERA.
Not that this means the Mariners are changing the role of Edwin Diaz, who entered Friday tied with the Rockies’ Wade Davis for the most saves in the major leagues (17).
Colome, who throws a fastball that touches 96 mph, will slide into a setup role, which means the Mariners will be less reliant on right-hander Juan Nicasio, their biggest offseason pitching acquisition, and right-hander Nick Vincent, who tied for the major-league lead in holds last season.
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said he’d talked with the Rays about Colome for about the past two seasons, though that died down when the Mariners signed Nicasio in December.
But when expected setup reliever David Phelps tore his ulnar collateral ligament in spring training, meaning season-ending Tommy John surgery, “it became more of an item of interest,” Dipoto said.
“The dynamic this brings to our bullpen with the combination of Edwin Diaz, Alex Colome, Juan Nicasio, Ryan Cook, Nick Vincent, James Pazos — really interesting dynamic,” Dipoto said. “It should be a lot of fun to watch.”
The Rays acquired the 34-year-old Span from the San Francisco Giants this offseason. He was batting .238 with a .364 on-base percentage in 43 games. He had been playing left field with the Rays but has predominately played center for his career.
Span hit .272 with a .329 on-base percentage last year with San Francisco. For his 11-year career, Span has a triple-slash line of .282/.348/.396.
Span will start regularly in left field, Servais said, with Guillermo Heredia maintaining his spot in center. This leaves Ben Gamel as a platoon option and gives Servais the ability to interchange Span, Gamel and Heredia between left field and center.
“We’re acquiring Denard Span to play regularly for us, contribute in our lineup and do what he does,” Servais said. “He’s really good at getting on base and grinding out at-bats and doing those types of things. He’s not a home-run hitter, we get all that. But he does a lot of good things to help you win ball games.
“He’s been in the playoffs a couple of times, he’s a veteran presence we can plug in the outfield. Big acquisitions for us. I’m excited. I think we’re playing really good baseball right now and we’re adding to that with two veteran guys who can help us right away.”
The trade did cost the Mariners two young starting pitchers.
Moore, who turns 24 on June 2, made his major-league debut last year, going 1-5 with a 5.34 ERA in 11 games. He has been playing at Double-A this season, going 3-1 with a 3.04 ERA in nine starts. He was voted as the team’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2016.
Romero, 20, is 3-3 with a 2.45 ERA in nine starts for Single-A Clinton. He’s struck out 54 in 44 innings. Romero was a 15th round draft pick in 2017.
“I don’t want to sell Tommy Romero short … but it’s not easy to trade Andrew Moore and I told him as much when I spoke to him earlier today,” Dipoto said. “He works hard. He’s always prepared. He shot to the big leagues pretty quickly and we couldn’t be happier with his productivity and time with the Mariners. In this moment and this time, we felt like for the now and really the future of the organization, this was the impact move we could make. We took the shot while it was open.”
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