Larry hinted at this yesterday, but the market for Bartolo Colon has been absolutely non-existent this offseason. If you look at his MLBTR archive, there have been a total of two posts written about the burly right-hander this winter: one looking at his free agent stock, the other a short little bullet point about Brian Cashman mentioning his interesting in re-signing Colon and a few others. That’s it, not a single other newsworthy item about the guy over the last two and a half months.
Given the lack of impact pitching in this year’s free agent market, Colon figured to draw some interest after resurrecting his career in 2011. MLBTR ranked him as the tenth best starting pitcher available this winter while Keith Law (Insider req’d) had him 11th, so the media thought he had some value to offer going forward. The 30 teams seem to disagree based on how little interest there’s been, or at least disagree about just how much he could help next year.
There are obvious reasons why teams would be skeptical about Bart going forward. He’s going to be 39 in May, he’s overweight, and both his fastball velocity and overall performance declined in a big way down the stretch last year. He’s also a two-pitch pitcher for all intents and purposes (four-seamer and two-seamer), leaving him short on wiggle room. I think there’s also a fear of the unknown given his stem cell treatment, since no one really knows what to expect going forward. Was the second half fade the result of fatigue, or is his shoulder starting to come apart? Maybe both? I don’t think anyone really knows the answer to that question.
Despite all that, I do think Colon’s getting a bit of a raw deal this winter. He outpitched both Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano last season while in the tougher league and the tougher ballpark, but those two guys ended up with the two-year, eight-figure contracts. Neither of them is all that young, plus they both have injury histories of their own, a significant one in Capuano’s case. I’m not saying Bart deserves that kind of contract, but it goes to show what kind of gap there is between our perception of his value and how the clubs see him.
The Yankees brought Freddy Garcia back with a one-year, $4M deal earlier this winter, which probably means Colon is looking at something below that. Garcia is coming off back-to-back 150+ IP seasons, a claim Bartolo can’t make. Of course if his market continues to not exist, he might be looking at another minor league contract, probably one with a higher base salary than the $900k he made last year. Colon didn’t sign with the Yankees until late-January last offseason (the 26th to be exact), and I have to think they’ll show some more interest in bringing him back if he’s still sitting out there in a few weeks.
I think that Colon’s lengthy winter ball stint — 37.1 IP without including playoffs — contributed to his late season collapse, and not having to deal with all those extra innings will theoretically help him going forward. Of course that also means he won’t break camp in what amounts to midseason form, but that will just make him like everyone else. I don’t expect Colon to repeat his first half brilliance over a full season, but I think he can still be useful at a reasonable price. The only problem is that no teams seem to feel that way.