Twelve months ago, Bartolo Colon was nothing more than an afterthought. He didn't pitch at all in 2010, and he hadn't thrown more than 100 innings in a season since winning the Cy Young Award in 2005. At 37 years old and with major arm injuries in his recent past, it wasn't unreasonable to think Colon was finished as a Major Leaguer.
The Yankees rolled the dice after losing out on Cliff Lee last offseason, signing Colon to a minor league deal in late-January. Bench coach Tony Pena had managed him in winter ball, and recommended him to New York's front office. Colon rewarded the team's faith in him by throwing 164 1/3 innings across 26 starts and three relief appearances, finishing with a 4.00 ERA and the tenth best K/BB ratio (3.38) among qualified AL pitchers.
In a free agent class lacking impact starters, Colon ranked 27th on Tim Dierkes' list of the top 50 free agents. That was ten spots ahead of his teammate Freddy Garcia, who just re-upped with the Yankees for one-year and $4MM plus incentives. Garcia threw fewer innings than Colon last year (146 2/3) but also posted a lower ERA (3.62). He also stayed relatively healthy while Colon missed close to a month with a hamstring strain and saw his velocity drop late in the season.
After settling for a $900K base salary last season, Colon will almost assuredly get a raise this winter. A two-year deal is unlikely, but like Garcia he could get $3-4MM guaranteed with incentives. Tim predicted that the Red Sox would sign Colon to stablize the back of their rotation, but a number of teams could show interest, and a reunion with the Yankees is always possible.