Going into next season, on paper, there was no room at the inn for Bartolo Colon.
With the Mets’ Big 5 expected back and Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman backing up, there was nothing guaranteed in Queens. Sure, they could be another pitching catastrophe where the Mets needed Colon, but you have to believe the rotation is safe.
So when the Braves this morning continued their over-40 shopping spree by signing the 43 year-old to a reportedly one-year, $12.5 million contract, just days after signing 42 year-old R.A. Dickey – another former Met – to a contract, you have to tip your hat to Colon and just thank him for three good years.
If it was just that simple.
Losing Colon, who went 15-8 with a 3.38 ERA last year, may come back and haunt the Mets.
First, it’s obvious, he’s going to a division rival, which obviously means the Mets will face him at least once, if not a couple of times next season. Knowing how competitive Colon can be, expect him to pitch well those games.
More importantly, though, the Mets just lost their pitching insurance policy for next season.
It’s true the club expects back Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler to join Noah Syndergaard in the rotation. In a perfect world, Colon is not needed if all of them stay healthy. As we saw last season, that’s easier said than done.
And then you have Lugo and Gsellman, both of whom filled in admirably to the rotation at the end of the season. If one or two of those pitchers goes down then the Mets could slot those two in and figure the drop-off wouldn’t be that harsh.
But here’s the issue. Knowing the way Terry Collins runs his staff, he will probably baby the returning pitchers early in the season, especially Harvey coming back from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and Wheeler with Tommy John surgery, who had a number of setbacks last season.
So if those two pitchers are going to be put on a strict pitch or innings count early on, the Mets will need someone to come in from the bullpen and eat up innings.
Both Lugo and Gsellman excelled in the starting roles, but when they were used coming out of the bullpen, they weren’t as sharp. Colon, though, has a rubber arm and proved he can pitch coming out of the bullpen.
It would have made more sense signing Colon, if he wanted to come back and use him in that swing role and then make him the No. 6 starter.
Then there is the leadership issue. Colon had a very positive influence on Jeurys Familia since he signed with the Mets in 2014. He taught the closer how to keep his head on straight and focus. With Familia now facing suspension and then having to come back sometime next year, there won’t be a mentor for him like in past seasons.
Obviously with Atlanta, Colon is getting a lot more money than he would with the Mets and has a guaranteed spot in the rotation. With 232 wins on his career, he is 11 wins away from breaking Juan Marichal’s record for most wins by a Dominican born pitcher and 13 away from Dennis Martinez’s overall record for a Latin American pitcher. If he signed with the Mets, he may have not gotten to those goals this year, while the Braves, trying to be competitive could put him over the top this season.
But the Mets aren’t looking for individual achievement here and want to win a World Series. However, they are going to be doing it without Colon and that may have made their job a bit harder.