There’s no shortage of criticism – justified fans clamoring for proof of progress in dealing prospects for an overpriced bat in a limited market, but the deadline has passed and there’s no time for crying over spilled milk. The New York Mets are 52-56, seven games behind the Washington Nationals and 5.5 games out of a wild card berth.
August is the home of clandestine trades – aka the waiver wire. MLB Trade Rumors has a solid tutorial on the waiver wire, but it comes down to risk and the element of surprise. Players can be quietly passed through waivers and made tradable, a third team can place a claim to block a potential deal or a team can dump the entire contract on a claimant. And with the deadline for playoff rosters set for Aug. 31, it’s almost as good as the July 31 deadline, minus the hype.
It was no secret the Mets wanted Bartolo Colon on a roster of 29 other clubs. But no deal was made by 4 p.m. Thursday. Limited information has hit the streets, but we do know that Alderson was reluctant to pay more than $2 million towards Colon’s $9 million owed in 2014 and nothing for his $11 million in 2015. Based on his track record – see Carlos Beltran and Zack Wheeler – and the Wilpons’ reputation for fiscal prudence – being cheap, the Mets weren’t trading Colon without giving up his entire contract or getting a substantial piece.
Just like every team, Mets fans were quick to laugh at Colon’s heft and inability to swing like a professional ballplayer this spring. But once the 2014 campaign began, the Flushing Faithful realized why the 41-year-old is still pitching in the majors. He’s thrown 141.2 innings so far, with 3.88 ERA, 1.165 WHIP, 6.7 K/9, 5.3 K/BB ratio and 0.9 HR/9. To call those solid numbers from a mid-rotation starter is an understatement; they are eerily similar to his all-star season with Oakland in 2013 and Cy Young season with the Angels as the steroid-era ended in 2005. His WHIP is within four-thousandths of a point from either year, he’s striking out half a batter more per game, easily putting up more strikeouts than walks and his home runs allowed are an average of the two. The only difference is the ERA – 3.48 in 2005 and 2.65 in 2013, although a comparable BABIP in all three seasons – .283 in 2005, .295 in 2013 and .297 in 2014 – fails to shed any light on this.
That said, Colon is clearly having a good season and has no shortage of experience to offer a team, regular and postseason. New York needs to clear up payroll and roster space for the future, meaning Colon is very unlikely to be back in 2015. What’s less clear is if he gets dealt before the off-season and where is his ticket punched for.
San Francisco was the first team rumored to be interested in the hefty right-hander. The Giants shopped around to replace injured pitcher Matt Cain; Cain was placed on the DL retroactively to July 11 with elbow issues after a marginal season. Doctors found Friday that he doesn’t need Tommy John surgery, but could miss the rest of the season with arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips. San Francisco responded by trading hard-throwing Triple-A reliever Heath Hembree and struggling Triple-A starter Edwin Escobar for Jake Peavy. In his first start, Peavy allowed 4 runs (3 earned) in six innings and took the loss. With a mediocre showing from ace Madison Bumgarner and former ace Tim Lincecum, San Francisco may need to shore up the starting rotation if they want stay atop the Wild Card hunt.
Kansas City were also heavily rumored to be targeting the Mets righty. The Royals are just 3.5 wins back of a Wild Card spot, sitting fourth behind Seattle. Starter Jason Vargas is still recovering from an appendectomy with swingman Bruce Chen and his 6.42 ERA filling in. Colon could also bolster a rotation with Jeremy Guthrie regressing to a 4.70 ERA after an impressive June. The pitching issue in Kansas City also extends into 2015 when ace James Shields will be looking for a lucrative pay day as a free agent. While some Kansas City reports suggested Alderson could be holding Colon for the Mets in 2015, this seems unlikely at best with the plethora of advanced pitching and just five rotation spots.
Baltimore was another team rumored to be looking for starting pitching at the trade deadline. But the Orioles, atop the AL East by 1.5 games, ended up trading for Double-A starter Eduardo Rodriguez for Boston reliever Andrew Miller. They were heavily in the mix for Jon Lester and probably could have pulled the trigger for David Price. Baltimore’s pitching staff has looked better as of late, with all five starters sporting ERAs under 4, although early season struggles has their front office looking for a little help in the postseason run.
The dark horse candidate in all of this may be the Boston Red Sox. Boston brought in prospects and major-league hitting with Yoenis Cespedes, but it cost them Jon Lester and John Lackey – their ace and no. 2 starter. GM Ben Cherington called up minor leaguers Brandon Workman and Joe Kelly to fill in the gaps, with fellow minor leaguer Allen Webster called up for just in time for the July 27 win over Tampa Bay. Clay Buchholz will be fine and former Dodger Rubby De La Rosa could win a job in the 2015 rotation. However, Cherington has said he’ll be looking for veteran pitching in free agency. Trading a small piece and taking the entire contract for a successful Colon this year and next could help fill that gap.