Bartolo Colon is ready for class with Professor Cunningham, eagerly raising his hand.
Last week after they signed the power-hitting outfielder, I wrote that if the Mets failed to remain aggressive, signing Curtis Granderson was a mistake. With this week’s winter meetings, New York was given the perfect opportunity to build off the Granderson signing and further improve the team’s roster.
The winter meetings are like MLB’s version of an offseason midterm. With high school and college students across the country delving into their exam periods, it’s only appropriate that the Mets should be graded on their performance in the most active period of the offseason.
As I become the fourth Professor Cunningham of my family just for this column, I will grade the Mets on the two key components of the winter meetings—free agency and the trade market. At the end there will be a cumulative grade of the team’s performance this week, weighing each area fairly. There will also be grades within components if a specific move has been made.
The Rule V draft was to be included, but the Mets' inactivity on that front left that section out of the grading process.
The Mets pulled a fast one on Wednesday when the news about signing Bartolo Colon came out, after it seemed as if the only possible move the Mets would make at the meetings would be to deal Ike Davis.
The Mets had reportedly met with Colon and his agent, but rumors leaked that Colon’s asking price was greater than what New York was willing to pay, per Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. This made the Colon move a shock to Mets fans and reporters alike, as the team met the demands of the 40-year-old right-hander.
There are both reasons to be excited and cautions about the Bartolo Colon signing for the Mets.
By signing Colon, the Mets added a potential ace to their staff that should help them compete in the short-term while letting the team be patient with their young arms.
While pitching is a strength of the Mets organization, without Matt Harvey New York was looking at a situation in which it would have to rush one of its young arms to the majors. Had the team not signed Colon, it likely would have turned to a pitcher such as Daisuke Matsuzaka or one of its major league-ready prospects, who is not quite ready.
With Colon in the rotation the Mets' starting five becomes one of the most formidable in the National League, if he can come anything close to his 2013 performance. He posted a 2.65 ERA, which was good enough for second in the American League, and finished fourth in all of baseball with a tremendously low 3.8 percent walk rate. As evidenced in the video below, Colon has become a tremendous control pitcher toward the end of his career, which should allow him to remain effective even if his stuff diminishes.
Colon and his great control could also improve the rest of the rotation. It is one thing for a pitcher to be told he needs to pound the strike zone, but if the team’s young hurlers like Zack Wheeler and Jenrry Mejia see Colon do it effectively every fifth day, the confidence could rub off.
Colon, along with Travis d’Arnaud’s pitch-framing ability, could be devastating at the top of the 2014 Mets rotation.
Colon’s concerns come in the form of his durability and age. The Mets are buying high on Colon, where in his age-40 season he posted an ERA under 3.00 for just the second time. They are also relying on Colon to be a workhorse for their rotation, but he hasn’t pitched over 200 innings since 2005.
In the end, the Mets took a worthy risk, earning the signing a B+. While Colon is 40 years old, two years and $20 million is great value for the runner-up ERA leader in the AL, especially in light of CBS Sports' Jon Heyman's predictions that lesser pitchers like Bronson Arroyo will get larger contracts.
As for the Mets' total free-agency grade at the meetings, they get an A-. By expanding on the Granderson signing and offering two years to Colon, the team is proving that it intends to win, and not just in 2015.
They also are remaining patient on other free-agent fronts, not rushing to deal with players like shortstop Stephen Drew and refusing to overspend.
The Mets' selective aggressiveness was impressive at the winter meetings, earning them a solid A- in this category.
The Mets excelled less in the trade market at the winter meetings, failing to get anything done despite rumors to the contrary.
With both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda on the team, the Mets only need one (if either) of the players and were openly looking to deal Davis throughout the week, per Anthony DiComo of MLB.com.
On Wednesday, everything was hinging on whether Corey Hart re-signed with the Milwaukee Brewers, because if he didn’t, the Brewers were a likely Ike Davis destination. When Seattle signed Hart, things were looking up for the Mets.
Seattle helped the Mets once again by further weakening the first base market by trading for Logan Morrison.
Seattle does huge favor for #Mets adding 2 1B, leaving Milwaukee and Tampa Bay still looking.— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) December 11, 2013
Despite the dwindling market, Sandy Alderson was unable to deal Davis over the course of the week. The Mets have to trade one of their first basemen this offseason, as there is no use in keeping both of them, so the team’s grade is hurt by the inability to trade Davis.
However, Sandy worked all week trying to get a deal done, and a swap with the Brewers is still possible, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The Mets had a mixed performance in the winter meetings trade market. They were unable to deal Davis but also didn’t rush into trading pieces like Daniel Murphy that they would later regret.
This grade has room to grow immensely over the rest of the offseason, but the club's winter meetings trade-market grade is a C. The team not only needs to trade Davis but be aggressive in attaining one of the young shortstops around the league that could be available. Look for Alderson to remain aggressive on the trade front to improve this grade.
Overall, the Mets earned a solid B at the winter meetings.
They proved they were legitimately looking to win in 2014 and spent the necessary money in free agency to do so while signing a high-reward, risky pitcher in Colon.
How would you grade the Mets performance at the MLB winter meetings?
Unfortunately, the team still needs to improve if it wants to compete in 2014, and it needs to make the appropriate deals in order to do so.
One of Davis or Duda needs to be traded, and the Mets should still consider other options at first base like Kendrys Morales. Also, the Mets should be aggressively pursuing young shortstops like Arizona’s Chris Owings and Seattle’s Nick Franklin.
During the MLB winter meetings, the Mets proved they weren’t throwing away the 2014 season, but if they want to be serious about competing, they need to improve their performance in the trade market.
You can follow me on Twitter at @S_CunninghamBR