Occasionally, the events of world can line up in such a way where it just seems that it smiles down upon you. For Bartolo Colon, that was this past week. He was and continues to be baseball’s most beloved persona.
It was probably Marc Carig of Newsday who put it best with his lede after the crater Colon left on the sport Saturday: “With one magical swing, Bartolo Colon tested the bounds of human comprehension and confirmed, at long last, the existence of a baseball God.”
Colon is the most amazing specimen in baseball right now. He is both man and cartoon. A plump, unbelievably athletic, formerly suspended for PEDs, 42-year-old GIF machine. Words can’t do justice to the sight of him driving a home run into the left-field seats in San Diego Saturday. Enough exclamation points have been used over that moment that the world is likely running out. I did not watch the game live or realize it happened until the next morning, when I woke up checked Twitter and had to quickly see if my entire timeline was playing some kind of long con.
But the best part of Colon’s week may have come a few days later, when Stephen Strasburg signed a seven-year extension with the Nationals. That’s where the real benefit for Colon came. Look at the free agent pitching market this upcoming offseason. Look at it again. Everything is coming up Bart.
He’s not the pitcher you most want to lavish free agent dollars upon this offseason or the one who will get the most but Colon is going to get paid and he should get paid well. He’s an ageless right-hander in the midst of another strong season and at a time when pitching comes with so many question marks, he could just be a sure thing for the team that wants to sign him.
Colon is probably not the best pitcher on the market but he’s 42 and going to year to year. The investment in him, relative to the Scrooge McDuck pools of money handed out to top pitchers each year, is small. And it’s not like he’s on the decline.
His K/9 this season is the highest it’s been for him since–wait for it–2001. His walks per nine innings have actually never been lower–except for a two-start since with the Angels’ High-A club in 2007. Does he benefit from the 16th-best strand rate in baseball? Sure. But that will happen when you don’t walk anyone and don’t give up home runs. And if you think it’s all a fluke then consider that his FIP to this point, 3.02, is nearly as low as his ERA, 2.82.
Oh, and Colon is hitting balls as hard as he is getting hit, with an average exit velocity of 90.6 mph as a pitcher and a hitter.
Obviously, it won’t stay this good for Colon. He’ll regress to some degree and at some point he may even lose his spot in the starting rotation if the Mets’ staff stays healthy and Zack Wheeler returns on time this summer.
But when he hits the free agent market, he’ll be in a good spot. Teams will invariably be in a need for arms and for innings. Colon has out-performed his salary for six straight years now, earning a salary higher than the one he’s actually being paid–according to Fangraphs’ dollar valuation. He’s already out-performed the $7.5 million he’s getting from the Mets this season, according to that same tracker.
And would you rather give more years and money to Rich Hill, Mat Latos, or James Shields this offseason than just go year-to-year with Colon? He’s not flashy but he is predictable, and everything just seems to be going his way right now.
Photo Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports