On the heels of his spectacular performance against the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday, New York Mets' starter Bartolo Colon looks like he could be ready to heat up this summer. Colon is 4-5 with an unsightly 4.73 ERA, although that ERA has been inflated due to a couple of subpar outings where he was asked to eat innings when he clearly didn't have it. Given the amount of strong pitching prospects the Mets will be trying to find jobs for later in the season, Colon could find himself becoming a valuable trade candidate at the deadline.
If you remove his starts against the Los Angeles Angels and Colorado Rockies from consideration, Colon's ERA for the season would be a sterling 2.98. Advanced statistics also show that Colon's ERA is an outlier for how he has pitched this season. Colon's ERA is 4.73, but there is an advanced statistic called Fielder Independent Pitching, or FIP, that shows what a pitcher's ERA would be independent of the team's fielders. Colons' FIP figure is 3.66, over a full run below his actual ERA (Zack Wheeler also has fallen victim to poor defense, with his FIP also being a full run lower than his actual ERA). While the Mets' outfield defense has been superb in the early going, Colon has fallen victim to some shaky infield defense throughout the season.
The Mets may look to deal Colon for several reasons. The first of which is the fact that they will have a ton of young pitching to find roles for later in the season. Rafael Montero and Jacob DeGrom are already with the big club, and top prospect Noah Syndergaard is waiting in the wings with Triple-A Las Vegas. Either Montero or deGrom will be moved to the bullpen once Dillon Gee is activated from the DL, but the Mets will still need to clear a spot for Syndergaard when he is ready for a promotion after the All Star Break. The Mets could use Syndergaard in the bullpen, but they will likely use him in the rotation to try and get him ready for a role on the staff in 2015.
Colon also would have good trade value in spite of being 41 years old. Colon has the ability to eat innings and provide a veteran presence to a team in the playoff hunt, and he could fetch a decent prospect if a bidding war ensues for Colon's services. Colon also is due 10 million dollars next season, and trading him would free up that money to address other needs on the 2015 roster. Colon was signed for this season to essentially eat Matt Harvey's innings, but with Harvey due to return for 2015 Colon's presence would be redundant. The Mets already have seven starting pitchers under team control for multiple years beyond 2014 (Harvey, Gee, Jonathon Niese, Wheeler, Syndergaard, Montero, and deGrom), and that is not even counting converted starters Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia.
If Colon continues to pitch well, it also bears mentioning that Mets' GM Sandy Alderson has had a good track record of getting strong value from his trade chips. Alderson turned Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey, two players who were performing well but didn't fit into the team's long term plans, into Wheeler, Syndergaard, and Travis d'Arnaud. With the trade market for starting pitching relatively scarce outside of Chicago Cubs' starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija (who could be dealt any day now), a bidding war for Colon's services could play to the Mets' benefit. One fit could be across town with the New York Yankees, who had Colon back in 2011 and are currently very thin in their rotation beyond Masahiro Tanaka and the struggling Hiroki Kuroda. Given the teams with pitching needs and Alderson's history, we think the odds of Colon being in a Mets uniform after the trade deadline are slim to none.
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