Bartolo Colon remains among the most popular figures in recent Mets history, as further evidenced by the warm reception he received when introduced with the Braves on Opening Day at Citi Field on Monday. And given the Mets' suddenly thinner rotation, Colon certainly could have been useful had he remained for a fourth season in Queens.
Yet the decision to allow Colon to defect to Atlanta for $12.5 million on Nov. 17 ought not be second-guessed now that Seth Lugo reportedly has a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and Steven Matz has disclosed he has a strained flexor tendon in his left elbow.
When Colon opposes Jacob deGrom on Wednesday night at Citi Field -- at 43 years, 315 days old -- the veteran right-hander will become the oldest pitcher in the majors to start one of a team's first two games of a season since Jamie Moyer with the Rockies at age 49 in 2012. And certainly there will be an expiration date on Colon's productivity at some point sooner than later, even if he appears ageless.
That's not what dissuaded the Mets from re-signing him, however.
Feb 21, 2017; Braves pitchers Arodys Vizcaino, Bartolo Colon, Julio Teheran and Armando Rivero walk to the main field from the batting cages at Champion Stadium - Credit: Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Colon would have been a safety net for the Mets this season, a luxury for a team that already had cost-effective starters Noah Syndergaard, deGrom, Matt Harvey, Matz, Zack Wheeler, Robert Gsellman, and Lugo under control. And while Colon undoubtedly would have considered re-signing for a bullpen role, once the Braves went to a $12.5 million offer, that precluded sensibly bringing Colon back to the Mets for another season. That's closer money -- double the amount that ought to be allotted for a reliever who could step into the rotation if it became depleted.
In 2016, the expectation had been that Colon would slide into the bullpen after the All-Star break, once Wheeler returned from Tommy John surgery. Of course, Wheeler never appeared last season, and Harvey, deGrom and Matz required surgeries. Colon ended up the most durable member of the staff. He ultimately led the Mets in starts (33), wins (15) and innings (191.2).
With Matz and Lugo now on the disabled list for the foreseeable future, Rafael Montero becomes the next best option to make a start if another issue arises -- say Syndergaard's blister issue worsens and it precludes him making Sunday's start. Sean Gilmartin likely would be next in line after Montero. Still, it would be completely unfair to now argue that the Mets ought to have re-signed Colon at the price at which the Braves ultimately committed.
Fans can love Colon for his contribution to the Mets, as well as his entertainment value. Yet they can also understand the sensibility in letting him depart, even if in retrospect he could've been useful.
Adam Rubin (Facebook | Twitter | Contact) has covered the Mets since 2002. He previously worked for the Daily News and ESPN. He also serves as assistant athletic director for strategic communications at NYIT. He is a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the University of Pennsylvania.