The Mets surprised the baseball world today with the signing of free-agent pitcher Bartolo Colon to a two-year contract for a total of $20 million. Colon’s age and price tag are the most intriguing aspects of the move. Colon will turn 41 in May of 2014, and given the Mets’ financial contraints, it was expected that the Mets would look to less expensive options for their two open rotation spots. Names such as Paul Maholm, Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lannan, and Johan Santana had been raised as possibilities. Instead, Sandy Alderson chose to spend on the former A’s right-hander, who posted an 18-6 record last year.
If Colon is able to replicate, or come close to, his 2.65 ERA and 1.16 WHIP from last year, the Mets could have a top-of-the-rotation starter. However, that is a huge if. Colon’s age may work against him. In addition, while he pitched 190.1 innings last year, before that Colon hadn’t pitched more than 165 innings since 2005. It should be noted that Colon was suspended for PED use during the 2012 season. The two-year deal also seems a bit aggressive, although that seems to be where the market currently is for starting pitching. The signing of Colon also has a rippling effect on other moves the Mets may try to make.
Going into this off-season, the expectation was that Alderson would have approximately $35 million to spend on new acquisitions. For next year, the Mets have already committed a total of $30 million to Curtis Granderson, Chris Young, Colon. The math is not particularly challenging here. Unless moves are made to shed payroll (such as a trade of Ike Davis and/or Daniel Murphy), Alderson will have in the neighborhood of $5 million remaining to spend. The Mets still have significant needs, and filling them, by trade or through free agency, will cost money. The team still needs a shortstop and bullpen help. The current level of payroll flexibility will not allow the Mets to bring in Stephen Drew, to whom they have been speaking while in Orlando. It will also be tough to bring in the veteran reliever with closing experience that they have been seeking (such as Kevin Gregg or John Axford).
The Mets took a big gamble today, and I hope it pays off. They’re counting on an aging pitcher to be productive for two years. They’ve also left themselves short on financial resources to address additional needs. I would have preferred to see the Mets round out the rotation with an internal option (such as Carlos Torres or Jenrry Mejia) and a lesser-expensive acquisition or re-acquisition (such as Matsuzaka/Aaron Harang/Chris Capuano). These pitchers could have held the rotation in place until mid-year, when Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom, or Noah Syndergaard would be ready. The financial savings could have been used to address shortstop and the bullpen, where internal options are not adequate. However, the Mets chose a different path. Since the off-season is far from over, to use Alderson’s phrase, “we’ll have to see how it plays out.”
What are your thoughts on the Colon signing and its impact on potential other moves?