Bartolo Colon may be 43 years of age (44 next May), but the right-hander has no intention of calling it a career after the season and tells ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin that his ideal scenario would be to re-sign with the Mets as a free agent. “If they gave me the opportunity, I would be delighted to come back,” Colon said though his interpreter.
At one point, the notion of Colon returning to the Mets might’ve seemed like a stretch, as New York had built up a vaunted stockpile of enticing young arms. Entering the season, as Rubin reminds, Colon was only supposed to work out of the rotation until Zack Wheeler had recovered from 2015 Tommy John surgery. However, Wheeler won’t pitch in the Majors this season, Matt Harvey has undergone surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome, Steven Matz is dealing with a bone spur in his left elbow and now a shoulder impingement, and Noah Syndergaard is also dealing with a more minor spur in his right elbow. Jacob deGrom, meanwhile, is set to miss multiple starts due to forearm soreness.
Right-hander Seth Lugo has stepped up and been a godsend for the Mets recently, pitching to a 2.38 ERA in 41 1/3 innings (four starts, nine relief appearances), and if he can finish out the season with anywhere near that level of success, he’ll enter the 2017 campaign as an excellent safety net. However, given the plethora of injuries facing the Mets’ ballyhooed young starters, adding another insurance policy in the form of the veteran Colon, who is beloved among fans and teammates alike, certainly carries some merit.
The timeless Colon hasn’t pitched like a man whose years are beginning to catch up to him in 2016. His age-43 campaign, in fact, has been his best season yet with the Mets. In 158 2/3 innings, Colon is sporting a 3.35 ERA with 6.0 K/9, 1.6 BB/9 and a 43.8 percent ground-ball rate. His four-seamer’s velocity is down from 90.3 mph to 89.7 mph, but there’s little difference in the velocity of the two-seam fastball upon which he relies so heavily (87.2 mph in 2015; 87.0 mph in 2016). While some detractors might point out that Colon is averaging just 5.8 innings per start after averaging 6.2 and 6.5 per start, respectively, in 2015 and 2014, his 2016 number is weighed down by a June 21 outing in which he exited after one batter after being hit on the hand by a line drive. Subtracting that appearance from the equation, Colon is averaging a hair over six innings per outing — once again demonstrating an ability to work reasonably deep into games on a regular basis.
The 2017 season would represent the 20th season in Colon’s storied Major League career and, as Rubin notes, bring him within arm’s reach of Juan Marichal’s 243 wins — a record among Dominican-born hurlers — as well as Dennis Martinez’s 245 wins — the all-time record for a Latin American pitcher. “…if I caught up to either of those, it would be very meaningful,” said Colon.