Even going into his age-44 season, Bartolo Colon was the perfect insurance policy for the fragility that defines the Mets’ young starters at the moment. But how much is too much for insurance?
For the Mets that question presumably is intertwined with their desire to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes, which is why you can understand them passing on Colon, who signed with the Braves on Friday for $12.5 million.
Put it this way: if they get a deal done with Cespedes, their off-season will have been a success, no matter what other moves they make or don’t make.
Though I do think they need bullpen help, especially now with the likelihood of a suspension looming for Jeurys Familia after his domestic-violence arrest.
In fact, as I wrote even before the Familia incident, I think that loading up in the back of the pen by spending big on a closer like Kenley Jansen would establish the Mets as favorites over the Nationals in the NL East and dramatically increase their chances of beating a team like the Cubs in October.
It seems clear they’re not considering such a possibility, however, and certainly it appears the bidding will be high for free agents Jansen and Aroldis Chapman, as well as Mark Melancon.
Still, that would be money better spent than the $17.2 million they’ve committed to Neil Walker, via a qualifying offer, for next season.
They have enough infield depth to be ok at second base without Walker, and he might decline the qualifying offer, anyway, but the Mets need more of the bullpen dominance that defined so much success for teams in the recent post-season.
Bartolo Colon wasn’t guaranteed a spot in the Mets’ starting rotation.
Above all, however, assuming a healthier season for their starting pitchers, re-signing Cespedes should assure them of a legitimate shot at a championship.
If they need Colon’s money _ and Jay Bruce’s $13 million as well, if he is eventually traded _ to go all in on a $100 million-plus contract for Cespedes, it’s a small price to pay.
At any price, in fact, Colon wasn’t guaranteed a spot in the starting rotation, as he was at least to open the 2016 season, and that’s important to him. With 233 career wins, he stands 11 wins shy of surpassing Juan Marichal’s total for the most ever by a pitcher from the Dominican Republic.
Obviously, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler all have significant hurdles to clear coming back from surgeries of some kind. Some of the procedures were more significant than others, and at this point Wheeler may be the biggest question mark, having missed two full seasons now since his Tommy John surgery in March of 2015.
But Mets’ people have high hopes for a rebound by the group as a whole, and they’re thrilled that Noah Syndergaard’s bone spur wasn’t deemed significant enough by doctors to need surgery this off-season.
Most important, though, as it pertains to Colon, was the emergence of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman as major-league starters last season when injuries decimated the rotation.
Without them the Mets wouldn’t have made it to that wild-card game with the Giants. And both pitched well enough throughout September in high-pressure starts during the wild-card race to believe their success was more than flukey.
If the Mets get a deal done with Yoenis Cespedes, their off-season will have been a success.
(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
“Oh, yeah, I saw enough of both them to be convinced they can be solid major-league starters,’’ a National League scout said on Friday. “The league might catch up to some extent, but they both have stuff that plays, and they both showed poise in high-leverage games.
“They might not be a No. 1 or a No. 2 (starter), but they’d have spot in most teams’ rotations.”
Ideally, if their top five starters are healthy, the Mets likely would hope to use at least one of them, Gsellman or Lugo, in the bullpen, especially early in the year if Familia is suspended.
Either way, they provide depth that should mitigate the loss of Colon. It’s still a bit of a gamble, though, because Colon was such a marvel _ the one Met starter seemingly immune to injury.
He was more than simply an innings-eater as well, pitching to a 3.43 ERA over 33 starts last season, with command and movement on his 89-mph fastball that appears to be age-proof, at least to some extent.
So you hate to see him go. Colon was fun to watch, at the plate as well as on the mound. His size gave him the every-man appeal that made him a fan favorite, yet his underrated athleticism was such that he truly could have won a Gold Glove last season.
Even without the assurance he’d get starts, Colon might well have come back had the Mets been willing to pay him. Still, their decision not to do so is understandable as long as the money saved goes into the Cespedes fund…
And they get their man this winter.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News