Bartolo Colon returns

By Jason Wojciechowski on November 3, 2012 at 3:20 PM

Word hit the webs today that Bartolo Colon will be back with the A's on a one-year, $3 million (plus incentives) contract. Controversy ensued.

The main questions about Colon are whether we can expect him to pitch as well as he did in 2012 and whether he's blocking better players. (There's also a question about whether the A's paid too much compared to what other teams were offering, but I think it's beyond absurd to even consider that issue. We're just guessing at what other teams might have offered.)

Here's what Colon did last year: struck out batters at a well-below-average rate, walked them at a well-better-than-average rate, gave up some homers but not too many, and posted a BABIP that was in line with what you'd expect given the A's defense. He did this by throwing a fastball (four-seam or sinker) in the low 90s almost 90% of the time.

Colon's seasonal age in 2013 will be 40, but he's, from one perspective, a relatively young 40, as he'll be 39 until May 24th. Whether his fitness level makes him on the other hand an old 40 I don't really know. He also got suspended for a performance-enhancing drug, the effects and use of which I don't much about, such that I don't really want to speculate on whether we might suddenly see Colon turn injury-prone, lose stamina, or even lose performance.

Putting together every factor I can think of, I'd say that Colon is a solid bet to have his 2012 again, remembering that part of "having his 2012 again" is "pitching about 150 innings." I wouldn't expect him to get popped for PEDs again, but I wouldn't expect him to maintain enough health to throw 200 innings, either. But using his outfield defense and his refusal to throw anything other than a strike, I think he could post an RA9 between the 3.66 of this season and the 4.43 mark that the AL as a whole put up in 2012.

Is Bartolo Colon blocking someone better? Here are the A's starting pitchers, or the A's pitchers at least theoretically capable of starting:

  • Brett Anderson
  • Jarrod Parker
  • Tom Milone
  • A.J. Griffin
  • Dan Straily
  • Travis Blackley
  • Brad Peacock
  • Tyson Ross

Eliminating the guys that Colon isn't blocking and the ones that either are terrible or got terrible results in Triple-A in 2012 (Peacock), we've narrowed the question to whether Colon is standing in the way of Griffin, Straily, or Blackley.

Here's the thing about Straily: he'll still only be 24 in 2013, he's got a total of 66 2/3 innings in Triple-A, and he pitched poorly in the majors. If the A's can pick up an average to above-average starter on a cheap one-year deal who forces Straily to get some more high-minors reps, isn't that a pretty good idea?

Here's the thing about Griffin: he'll still only be 25 in 2013, he's got a total of 64 2/3 innings in Triple-A, and while he pitched well in the majors, it would be appropriate to question his stuff. Isn't it OK to potentially stash a player like that in Triple-A and bring him up when someone gets hurt rather than guarantee him a spot in the rotation and need to call on a Ross or potentially unready Peacock in his place?

Here's the thing about Blackley: sometimes major-league teams miss a player, just completely whiff for years and years on someone who can put up an average pitching performance on the mound and thereby keep him out of the game. Sometimes. But when someone with 39 2/3 big league innings at the age of 29 shows up on your team via waiver claim and proceeds to politely decline to let the other team score for 102 2/3 innings, you are probably best off bringing that guy back and using him as a long reliever until opportunity/necessity arises? He's not someone you want to count on, right?

If this is the A's rotation -- if they're unable to sign Brandon McCarthy and Jeremy Guthrie doesn't show up on Oakland's doorstep and Zack Greinke resists their enticing four-year, $40 million offer -- then I think the shortest way I can conclude this is that the A's are in a better place than they were yesterday. Somebody will get hurt and the A's will have their choice between calling up Straily or Peacock rather than Peacock or Ross. The A's got 17 starts from Ross and Graham Godfrey in 2012. Signing Colon even when Griffin and Straily are already on the team prevents that kind of bullshit from happening again.

Now the links.

Nico thinks that Asdrubal Cabrera could be traded and that the A's could be in a position to acquire him.

Billy Beane said to reporters that Brandon McCarthy isn't out of the picture.

He also noted that the A's have been watching Colon in winter ball to see how he's doing post-testosterone. (Presumably post, anyway.) Not that this should be a surprise. That's what scouts are for, after all.