It always hurts to drop a player who’s owed a big salary — in this case, $12.5MM on the year — but his performance left the team with little alternative. Colon, 44, carries an unsightly 8.14 ERA through 63 innings with 6.0 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9 and a 45.6% groundball rate.
Though a recent DL placement bought some time and afforded an opportunity for a reset, Colon struggled upon his return. He lasted only four innings against the Padres yesterday, coughing up six earned runs on eight hits and three walks.
Looking a bit deeper, things don’t get any more encouraging. While his velocity is holding steady, Colon has relied completely upon pinpoint command in his long and successful late-career run. That just hasn’t been there in 2017. A comparison of his heat maps (2016 vs. 2017) shows that the burly hurler just isn’t catching the edge as much as he needs to be useful. On the year, he has worked in the zone at a 42.9% rate — far shy of his 52.4% career mark. And when he does throw strikes, they have been knocked around for a .360 BABIP and 1.57 homers per nine.
Whether there’s another comeback attempt left in the tank remains to be seen. Other organizations may well believe there’s a chance he can again walk the fine line he’s been striding in recent years and provide some innings. (The Mets need some depth and would be seem an obvious possibility.) Regardless, there’s no chance that any will stake enough cash on that possibility to submit a claim.
No matter how things shake out, Colon’s amazing late-career run remains one of the game’s most intriguing achievements in recent memory. He sat out the 2010 season with arm issues, then returned for his age-38 campaign. Over the next six years, Colon placed 23rd in fWAR — edging James Shields, Yu Darvish, Doug Fister, and Jeff Samardzija — by running up over thousand innings of 3.63 ERA ball. Last year, Colon gave the Mets 191 2/3 innings of 3.43 ERA pitching at 43 years of age, which led to the ill-fated contract from the Braves. He also threw 14 2/3 quality postseason innings (with the 2013 A’s and 2015 Mets) in that period and left an array of memorable moments. (This one takes top honors for me.)
While the Braves are set in the rotation now without Colon — highly regarded prospect Sean Newcomb came up when he hit the DL — the disappointing performance does still tell on the organization. Most notably, Colon won’t be a trade chip, and he also won’t be available to help shoulder the load if the team moves other arms. And the club will owe the balance of his salary, less the pro-rated league-minimum for any time he spends with another team in the majors.
It’ll be interesting, though, to see the two lefties that the move makes way for. Newcomb has pitched well, with a 1.48 ERA over four starts, and figures to get a longer look and a real shot at locking up a rotation spot for 2018. And Brothers, who’s still just 29, has put up some interesting numbers in the minors. After posting huge strikeout figures at Double-A to open the year, the former Rockies reliever has thrown 4 1/3 scoreless at the highest level of the minors. Most notably, Brothers seems to have gotten a handle on the control problems that led to the end of his tenure in Colorado.