Less than a week after lavishing outfielder Curtis Granderson with a four-year, $60 million contract, the team on Wednesday agreed to terms on a two-year, $20 million pact with right-hander Bartolo Colon, according to a source. The Mets have not confirmed the deal, as it is pending a physical and not yet official.
With the move, the franchise continued transforming its reputation. After spending $5 million on guaranteed contracts last winter, the Mets have doled out $87.25 million this offseason.
Nearly a quarter of that will go to Colon, 40, who should replace most of the innings the Mets lost when Matt Harvey decided to undergo Tommy John surgery. The 17-year veteran went 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA for the A's last season, striking out 117 and walking 29 in 190 1/3 innings. He made 30 starts and earned an All-Star nod for the first time since 2005, when he won the American League Cy Young Award as a member of the Angels.
Colon, who has a lifetime 189-128 record and 3.94 ERA, missed the entire 2010 season because of injury. He has since gone 36-25 with a 3.32 ERA and 3.73 strikeout-to-walk ratio in three years split between the A's and Yankees, but he missed 50 games (plus the playoffs) in 2012-13 after testing positive for synthetic testosterone.
A three-time All-Star, Colon has also pitched for the Indians, Expos, White Sox and Red Sox.
"People might not think that he works hard, but he does," A's rookie Sonny Gray said of Colon in October. "He has a routine down, and he has it down to the minute, it seems, every single day. I think that's something that can help you stay in the game as long as he has."
Colon will be joining a rotation that includes three incumbents in Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee and Jon Niese. If the Mets do not acquire another starting pitcher via trade, they can either invest in a cheap free agent to round out the rotation -- a Daisuke Matsuzaka type -- or allow youngsters Jenrry Mejia, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom to compete for the final spot. The organization's top overall prospect, right-hander Noah Syndergaard, is tentatively scheduled to make his Major League debut around midseason.
That stable of young pitchers gave the Mets enough flexibility to offer a two-year deal to Colon, who will be 41 in May and has taken at least one trip to the disabled list every year since 2006 (except 2010, when he was unaffiliated and spent the entire year rehabbing).
Yet despite those hedges, the deal represents a fundamental shift for general manager Sandy Alderson, who until last week had not committed more than $12 million to any free agent since taking over in 2010. Shrouding their plans all week, Alderson and COO Jeff Wilpon both indicated that they expected to remain financially cautious.
On Monday, Alderson said he would be "hesitant to give a multiyear contract" to any pitcher. On Tuesday, in response to a question regarding the Mets' readiness to win in 2014, Wilpon said they were "still building." On Wednesday, agent Scott Boras took his annual shots at the Mets' financial situation, wondering out loud why the team has not spent seriously since 2010.
But by Wednesday evening, it became clear that things had changed.
Now the only question is what the Mets will do next. The top priority remains trading one of their lefty-hitting first basemen, Ike Davis or Lucas Duda. Following a flurry of first-base activity around the league on Wednesday, three obvious suitors emerged: the Pirates, Brewers and Rays. Alderson has made it clear that in any deal, he values young, controllable pitching as the return.
The Mets would also like to upgrade at shortstop, though Colon's signing may eliminate any chance they had at signing Boras' premier middle-infield client, Stephen Drew. Drew figures to command at least $10 million annually on the open market, and the Mets' 2014 payroll is now over $80 million. With a self-imposed limit of around $85 million to $90 million, that doesn't leave Alderson with much wiggle room unless he can deal both Davis and second baseman Daniel Murphy, who will make around $9 million combined. The Mets would also like to save some money for a veteran reliever.
"It's not just a question of 'What do we have to spend?' and 'How are we going to allocate those resources?" Alderson said on Wednesday. "It's also a question of value. As the cost continues to go up, generally speaking, the value continues to go down."