One of the biggest questions facing the Oakland A's front office in the offseason is what to do about Bartolo Colon.
As the veteran explained to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the right-hander doesn't plan to stop pitching anytime soon:
Three more years?
That's a bit bold considering he will be 41 years old in May. It's hard to see any team giving Colon a three-year deal, but a two-year contract isn't off the table. Plenty of teams are desperate for starters. Colon is certainly getting up there in age, but it's impossible to ignore the results.
In 2013, Colon was one of the best pitchers in the AL. The righty ripped off 18 wins and posted a 2.65 ERA, while earning an All-Star berth along the way.
As GM Billy Beane put it to John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group:
Ultimately, the deal will come down to dollars.
How much money will the team have to pay to keep Colon around? There are no obvious comparisons from last year's class of free agents because there simply aren't that many starters still pitching at his age. There are even fewer who are posting numbers similar to those of Colon.
The best comparison came nearly 10 years ago.
In 2003, Jamie Moyer won 21 games as a 40-year-old for the Seattle Mariners and then earned $7 million in 2004. That was almost a decade ago, but it provides a framework for a potential deal for the A's ace.
The front office will also have to evaluate just how vital Colon will be to the starting staff in 2014. Here are the six starters that the team has under club control for next season:
- Sonny Gray
- Jarrod Parker
- A.J. Griffin
- Dan Straily
- Brett Anderson
- Tommy Milone
In the case of Anderson, the team still needs to pick up the $8 million option on the lefty. According to Slusser, the team is leaning that way:
Anderson's durability is a huge question mark, but that's still a solid group of starters. However, depth is crucial. In the wake of the team's ALDS exit, Jane Lee of MLB.com reported that both Sonny Gray (thumb) and Jarrod Parker (elbow) had to undergo MRIs.
It's still too early to know how serious those injuries will be, but they serve to remind just how quickly health problems can deplete a team's depth.
There's also the PED angle to consider.
MLB hit Colon with a 50-game ban back in August 2012 for PED usage. Ever since then, there have been questions every time the veteran rears back and fires off a 96 mph heater.
It's worth noting, though, that it wasn't power than made Colon so dominant in 2013. It was his remarkable control. According to FanGraphs, the righty finished the season with a 1.37 BB/9. That was second only to David Price in the AL.
Nobody will expect him to win 18 games again in 2014. If he can maintain his pinpoint control, though, there's no reason why Colon can't be a highly effective starter for Oakland next season.
Beane and manager Bob Melvin both told Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area that the team would love to keep Colon.
In particular, if the team can secure a deal on similar terms to the $3 million that Colon earned in 2013. That would be ideal, but there figures to be far more interest in the 18-game winner this offseason.
A more realistic target would be around $5 million with incentives that would allow Colon to earn as much as $8 million. If the A's wants to be really aggressive, the club can even offer him an option for 2015 based on Colon making a certain number of starts next year.
Admittedly, that's a lot of money for a pitcher at Colon's age.
Then again, $5-8 million just doesn't go that far on the market for free-agent starters. Look no further than Anderson. With all the inexpensive, young starters the team has under control, it's a gamble that the club can afford to make.
In the end, though, the decision could be out of Beane's control. If another team offers the starter multiple years, then Colon's time in Oakland is up.
All salary figures courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com