Reports say that Bartolo Colon signed with the New York Mets for 2 years and $20 million.
The 2013 New York Mets were not exactly a spectacular baseball team. Well, that’s not technically accurate; there was actually a fair bit of spectacle in the form of one Matt Harvey, but the Mets overall were a 74 win team even with Harvey’s 6.1 WAR performance in only 26 starts. They looked like sleeper contenders for this year before Harvey went down, considering his talent and the cast of young-to-young-ish players and good prospects that could have a chance at contributing in 2014. But then Harvey went down, and he took 2014 with him. He’ll miss the entire season, or at least a very large chunk of it, recovering from Tommy John Surgery as the Mets shift their plans forward to a contention window that opens in 2015. Their signing of Curtis Granderson makes sense, in light of the fact that next year’s free-agent crop of outfielders is fairly weak, because he will be able to provide some pop and veteran presents through that competitive window to aid David Wright both on the field and (hopefully) in buddy-cop movies. This evening’s announced signing of Bartolo Colon makes sense in a circuitous way as well. Here are his stats over his two seasons with the Oakland Athletics.
First up, Colon is a good pitcher still somehow. The last few years have not entirely been all smoke and mirrors, despite throwing basically just 91 MPH fastballs and nothing else really. His low ERAs have been backed up by a reasonable cut in his FIP. xFIP, which adjusts his home-run rate back to the league average, still rates Colon’s performances around 4.00 ERA. (xFIP is useful for evaluating a flyball pitcher, though less so one that’s moving between parks that are similarly stingy on dingers) Currently updated projection systems peg his likely contribution at about 2.6 fWAR, or about 15 million dollars at the $/WAR rate that’s currently being floated around. A flyball pitcher like Colon should enjoy pitching with the likely-fantastic defensive trio of Granderson, Juan Lagares and Chris B. Young behind him. The signing allows the Mets to sit on their thumbs and hope for the best. Colon may be able to replicate his Oakland successes at Citi Field, and if he can, Sandy Alderson will have gotten himself a nifty little bargain.
A big part of the signing, as I see it, though has got to be optics. New York is a market of massive ticket revenue and fielding a competitive team increases public interest and puts fans both hardcore and casual in the seats and spending money. They not only stand to gain by winning the few extra games that Colon is likely to bring them, they also stand to gain just from looking like they’re making the effort to win. The Yankees this fall reported that by missing the playoffs in 2013 they lost about $58 million on ticket-sales and stadium suite licenses, the New York market cannot be underestimated.
The Mets need Matt Harvey to have a realistic shot at contending, and they’ll have him back for the 2015 season along with a lot more young talent behind him. For 2014, they don’t really have a realistic shot, but Colon makes them better. Solid performances by Granderson, Wright along with a few of Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, Ruben Tejada (heh), or Zack Wheeler bursting onto the scene could propel the team into, if not a playoff spot, a considerable amount of buzz around baseball regarding Harvey’s imminent return. That’s valuable in a way that’s tangible to fans, and nowhere is that more valuable than in New York.