When Matt Harvey went down with an elbow injury in August, the Mets lost an ace. On Wednesday evening, they found a new one to replace him as a temporary stopgap.
According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the New York Mets and Bartolo Colon have agreed on a two-year, $20 million contract to bring the free agent to Citi Field for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
By adding Colon, New York fills Harvey's spot atop the rotation in 2014, provides veteran leadership for a young, talented staff and sets the team up for long-term winning when Harvey returns.
Over the last three years, Colon has been one of the most fascinating stories in baseball. Colon made his debut in 1997 with the Cleveland Indians as a flame-throwing strikeout artist, not unlike his new teammate Zack Wheeler. In 2005, he reigned atop the American League with a Cy Young-winning season.
By 2006, injuries and age halted his career. From 2006-2009, Colon was deemed past his prime, pitching to a 5.18 ERA in 257 forgettable innings for the Angels, Red Sox and White Sox.
Then, suddenly, he reappeared as an effective starting pitcher in 2011 for the New York Yankees. Since the moment he resurfaced in the Bronx as a control artist, a far cry from his young, hard-throwing days, he's profiled as an excellent pitcher, posting a 3.32 ERA across 80 starts.
During that time, he's one of only 13 pitchers in baseball to throw at least 500 innings with an adjusted ERA of at least 11 percent above league average and a strikeout-to-walk ratio better than 3.50.
Yes, a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs in 2012 is part of his story and rise back to prominence, but after passing all drug tests during a dominant 2013 (18-6, 2.65), Mets fans shouldn't worry about his past.
Instead, focus on the future of the 40-year-old right-handed pitching star.
In the short term, he provides the Mets exactly what they need: innings to replace Matt Harvey and leadership atop a very young rotation.
Although Colon hasn't topped the 200-inning plateau since his 2005 Cy Young campaign, he would have back-to-back 30-start seasons on his ledger if not for the 50-game suspension in 2012. If he can give the Mets the same number of innings he provided (191.1) Oakland in 2013, Harvey's work will be adequately replaced.
Colon was durable in 2013. Should benefit from NL lineups and Citi Field as home park. Should be solid pickup for Mets.— Sweeny Murti (@YankeesWFAN) December 11, 2013
Outside of the on-field advantages to securing Colon's services, the Mets now have a veteran presence atop their rotation of kids. Although that narrative can be overblown and overstated by the media, it works here because of the types of pitchers the Mets have and how Colon has transformed during his 16-year career.
Along with Colon, 40, the Mets will, barring a trade, bring Zack Wheeler (23), Jon Niese (27), Dillon Gee (27) and Jenrry Mejia (24) to spring training, per MLB Depth Charts. If there's a question about pitch location, setting up hitters or carrying velocity through the rigors of a long season, Colon likely has the answer.
When Colon arrived in Cleveland, he was very similar to the type of power pitcher that Wheeler profiles as now. His injury history can relate to Harvey and Niese. His once sky-high prospect status can be compared to what Noah Syndergaard will feel if he pitches well in spring training. The finesse, strike-throwing pitcher Colon is now very similar to what Gee was in 2013.
After signing Curtis Granderson, the Mets looked closer to a winning team than the 88-loss disappointment of this past season. Now, with Colon in tow, the team can dream of a .500 record for the first time since 2008.
Clearly, the signing is wise for the short-term gain of next season. If Colon brings the kind of dominance he flashed last year, the Mets will be rewarded.
It's the long-term gains that are less clear, but don't discount the potential for this signing impacting the roster for years.
If Colon can maintain his performance in his 40s, similar to Andy Pettitte for the Yankees the past couple of seasons, the team will benefit in multiple ways.
New York's rebuilding plan, centered upon the greatness of David Wright, signing of complementary pieces like Curtis Granderson and a young, rising pitching staff could come together over the next couple of seasons.
If Matt Harvey returns to his pre-injury self, Wheeler rises to All-Star form and a prospect like Syndergaard joins them as an elite talent, the team will have a veteran in Colon to anchor the back end of the rotation, enabling general manager Sandy Alderson to consider moving one of the other arms for additional offensive help.
With the right moves, Colon's presence can aid the Mets into becoming a legitimate National League threat.
Only thing Mets could have done to make selves legit team in 14 was replace Harvey at top of rotation, which they just did.— Andy Martino (@MartinoNYDN) December 11, 2013
If the process doesn't go as planned, Colon still can pay dividends. By signing him for two years, at a very reasonable rate, the Mets have an attractive trade chip on their hands.
Will Colon help the Mets become contenders?
When 2015 begins, Colon will be 41 but still priced reasonably for any contending team. If the Mets don't compete out of the gate, the team can move him before his contract expires, possibly baiting a contender into giving them a missing piece at shortstop, outfield or in the bullpen.
After five consecutive losing seasons, pessimism can creep into the mind of even the most optimistic Mets fan. This time, the concern is unwarranted. Despite the age, recent PED suspension and two-year deal, Colon is the perfect fit for the rebuilding Mets.