By Brad Kallet
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We’ll miss the reliability, the willingness to do whatever is asked of him in any situation and the consistency.
We’ll miss the ridiculous at-bats, the endearing smile, the knowingness that you never quite know what you’re going to see on a given night and the overall comedic value.
No, not really.
It was reported Friday that the ageless wonder — he’ll turn 44 in May — has agreed to a one-year, $12.5 million deal with the Braves.
In his three years with the Mets, Colon became a cult hero to fans — and even fellow players. He also did a terrific job on the mound, making over 30 starts and throwing at least 190 innings in each of his seasons in Queens. He went 44-34 with a 3.89 ERA from 2014-16 and was especially valuable last season, when four of the Mets’ starters had their campaigns derailed by injury. Only Colon and ace Noah Syndergaard made it from Opening Day to the National League wild-card game.
But general manager Sandy Alderson was smart to let the man affectionately known as “Big Sexy” walk. Though it would have been nice to hold onto Colon for 2017, he’s become expendable.
Yes, I know we all said that before the 2016 season, and then Steven Matz, Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom got hurt — and Zack Wheeler never threw a pitch. But all four of those pitchers, in addition to Syndergaard, are expected to be healthy and ready to go for spring training, and it’s almost inconceivable that this rotation will be decimated by injury in 2017 the way it was in 2016.
One or two of those starters will likely spend time on the disabled list next year — that’s just the way it goes — but to expect four of them to miss a significant period of time again is rather nonsensical. No betting man would take those odds.
So with Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker to pay — as well as other free agents/trade targets whom Alderson might want to explore — spending $12.5 million on an insurance policy was not in the least bit worth it. Though Colon is deserving of a rotation spot, Alderson and manager Terry Collins couldn’t guarantee him one. If Syndergaard, Matz, Harvey, deGrom and Wheeler are healthy, Colon is the odd man out.
The Mets were “disappointed” that Colon signed elsewhere, according to WFAN baseball insider Jon Heyman, but Alderson must take comfort in the fact that he has Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman at his disposal in the event that more starters have to be called upon.
Perhaps the only benefit of last season’s injury misery was the fact that the organization got to see Lugo and Gsellman come out of seemingly nowhere to help the Mets advance to the postseason. In his rookie season, the 26-year-old Lugo went 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA in 64 innings. Gsellman, also a rookie, was perhaps even better. The 23-year-old went 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA in 44 2/3 innings and only surrendered one home run.
Though this pair has much more to prove, they showed that they can be quality spot starters, and even valuable back-of-the-rotation arms. The best part? They’ll make just over $1 million next season — combined.
Colon is an iron man — he’s apparently immune from getting hurt, which only adds to his legend — a terrific teammate, an innings eater and one of the premier strike throwers in the game. But the cold, hard truth is that he’s not getting any younger, and at some point his velocity has to dip and his command has to worsen. As effective as he was the last three seasons, anyone who watched him knows that he’s very hittable. Colon gave up at least 200 hits and at least 22 home runs each of the past three seasons. If he’s not hitting his spots, the opposing team is up there taking batting practice.
Colon will forever be remembered fondly by Mets fans, and certain memorable highlights — his home run off James Shields, his behind-the-back toss, his helmet falling off after taking a vicious cut — will play on reels for years to come. He was an excellent Met, and one of the most lovable characters in franchise history.
His one-of-a-kind persona will be dearly missed in 2017. But assuming New York’s rotation stays even remotely healthy, his pitching won’t be.
Brad Kallet is the managing editor of TENNIS.com and a frequent contributor to WFAN.com. Follow him on Twitter @brad_kallet