Letting Bartolo Colon Walk Still Isn’t The Problem
With Noah Syndergaard‘s torn lat, it is once again time to revisit the Mets decision to allow Bartolo Colon to depart in free agency. It is a moment that has been revisited on multiple occasions. It was first addressed when the Mets allowed him to go to the Braves without so much as an offer. It was addressed when Steven Matz and Seth Lugo suffered injuries. Its been addressed with every struggle Robert Gsellman has had on this young season. So why not just get it out of the way for good and for all.
The Mets were correct in their decision not to re-sign Bartolo Colon.
For those clamoring for the popular player, do you know what his stats are this season? They’re not good. Through five starts, Colon is 1-2 with a 5.59 ERA and a 1.310 WHIP. He’s averaging 5.2 innings per start. The only intradivision team he has handled well was the Mets. Against the Marlins, he pitched four innings allowing six runs on seven hits. Against the Phillies, he allowed four runs on 11 hits. For a Mets team that needs a stabilizing force in the rotation the can eat up innings and get some quality starts, Colon has shown that so far he is not really the answer.
If you want to argue, he certainly is a better pitcher than that, you may have an argument. However, his 77 ERA+ and his 4.40 FIP suggest you don’t have much of an argument. You could say that it’s early, but is it ever early for a 44 year old pitcher?
But this overlooks what was the real issue at the time Colon hit free agency. The Mets could not guarantee him a rotation spot. Last year, Gsellman was 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA, 1.276 WHIP, 169 ERA+, and a 2.63 FIP. Lugo was 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA, 1.094 WHIP, 152 ERA+, and a 4.33 FIP. On top of that, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Matz had successful surgeries and looked to be ready on Opening Day. Furthermore, Zack Wheeler was on track to be ready to be on the Opening Day roster. If everyone is healthy and in peak form, Colon was realistically the seventh or eighth best pitcher on the staff. Simply put, there was no spot for him.
Colon knew that too. That’s why he took the Braves one year $12.5 million deal. He took the deal because the Braves were guaranteeing him a rotation spot that would permit him to chase down Juan Marichal and Dennis Martinez to become the winningest Latin born pitcher in major league history. Colon chose the path with the best contract and the clearest path to the record over returning to the Mets or going to another contender.
This is no shot at him. Last year, Colon took less money and risked getting demoted to the bullpen in order to chase that elusive World Series. He just wasn’t as eager to do that this time. The Mets also weren’t eager to bring him back with their pitching depth.
Instead, the Mets used that $12.5 million this offseason. That money helped the Mets to build a bullpen. Jerry Blevins was signed for $5.5 million. Fernando Salas was signed for $3 million. Addison Reed received a $2.55 million raise, and Jeurys Familia received a $3.325 million raise. As much as the bullpen has struggled to start the season, imagine it right now without Blevins. So overall, it is not as if that $12.5 million wasn’t spent on pitching this offseason. It was. It was just spent on a bullpen that Colon was not willing to pitch in to start the season.
So no, the Mets shouldn’t be second guessed for letting Colon go to the Braves. Rather, the Mets should be questioned as to why the choice for fifth starter is between Rafael Montero or Sean Gilmartin. Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa were traded to the Orioles for cash considerations in separate deals this offseason. Scott Feldman signed with the Reds for $2.3 million. There are a number of pitchers available who could have provided a little extra depth including the player everyone loves to hate, Jon Niese. Say what you want about him, but he’s much better than Montero.
There’s also the matter that the Mets knew this could happen. Once the Mets opened the season with Lugo and Matz hurt, the team’s depth was gone. As reported by Kristie Ackert in the New York Daily News, Sandy Alderson backed off signing a pitcher like Doug Fister because he was willing to wait until late May or June for them to be healthy. Alderson willing took a gamble with the pitching depth, and he lost.
Overall, the Mets aren’t in trouble because they didn’t re-sign Colon. They are in trouble because the team purged the non-Montero options they had in the organization, and they were willing to wait almost two months to have quality major league pitching depth.