The Hidden Gem Of Free Agent Pitchers

Dave · October 24, 2007 at 8:49 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Odds are, you’ve probably read a post by Derek or myself where we rail on the ludicrous pricetags for free agent pitching. The salaries have been so far out of touch with reality the last decade or so that the smartest teams have almost entirely ignored free agency as a way to fill out a starting rotation. It’s just a bad market, full of franchise-sinking contracts and overrated pitchers having money thrown at them simply because they have a pulse and a few ligaments in tact. In almost every case, it makes more sense to simply go another direction, build a lower cost rotation, and use the money to purchase other things in free agency.

However, the general insanity of the market doesn’t mean that every pitcher is extremely overvalued. We were okay with the Miguel Batista signing last winter, believing that MLB executives undervalued Batista as a pitcher, and he turned in a pretty solid season for the Mariners. Ted Lilly’s move to the National League worked out well for him, and that contract looks great in retrospect. It’s not impossible to find a valuable, fairly compensated starting pitcher in free agency – it just requires some creativity and an understanding of what the market overvalues and undervalues.

In general, major league teams have overvalued two main things: health and recent success. Jeff Suppan and Barry Zito cashed in at prices far beyond their ability because they’ve been able to avoid the disabled list. Jeff Weaver cashed in because the last memory everyone had of him was World Series hero, not regular season batting practice thrower. Teams find it much more appealing to give huge amounts of money to guys who have thrown 200+ innings the previous year, so expect the bidding for guys like Carlos Silva to go crazy.

Since there is a finite amount of money in team payroll, despite what it might seem like, if MLB as a whole is overvaluing one skill (such as durability), it follows that they’re also undervaluing another skill – the money being spent on innings eaters is coming out of someone else’s pockets. The key is to find the undervalued skills and the players who fit the profile of someone who has a strong probability of outperforming the level at which he’ll be compensated this winter.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, it’s a bad year for free agent pitching anyway, so that makes this task tougher. Lots of teams are going to be looking for a starting pitcher, and with a paucity of talent available, finding an undervalued arm will be more of a challenge. But, after looking over the list, I think there is one guy who stands a good chance of being the best free agent pitcher signed this winter, and almost certainly won’t command the paycheck that goes along with that potential reward.

That guy is Bartolo Colon. Yes, for the second straight year, I’m throwing my support behind a guy who posted an ERA of 6+ and has some non-trivial arm problems. Last year, I drove the Rodrigo Lopez bandwagon (and, shameless plug, but Colorado got some 80 good innings out of him before his elbow blew out), and Colon is this year’s version of the same idea.

From 1998-2005, Colon was a horse, throwing 200+ innings every year except 2000, when he threw 188, and posting an ERA below 4.00 in each season besides 2001 (4.09) and 2004 (5.01). Each of his “off years” were followed by a rebound season, and while Colon moved from being a dominant Cy Young contender to a good middle-of-the-rotation guy, he was one of the most reliable starters in the majors.

Then, 2006 hit, and the injuries began to take their toll. He battled shoulder inflammation that cost him most of the first half of the ’06 season, then lost the last two months with a triceps injury. He began the ’07 season the DL due to a problem with his rotator cuff, then fought the tricpes thing again, and was finally shut down with pain in his elbow.

He’s spent the last two years pitching hurt, and the results reflect that. He’s thrown just 155 innings and posted an ERA of 5.89 over the last two seasons. Considering the arm problems he’s faced, it shouldn’t be any huge surprise that he hasn’t pitched all that well.

However, as is often the case, ERA doesn’t tell the whole story here. In ’06, Colon was sitting 88-92 range with his fastball, and knowing he didn’t have the stuff to make anyone miss, he just threw it down the middle. He posted the lowest strikeout rate of his career, but also the lowest walk rate, while seeing his home run rate go through the roof. He was basically an extra large version of Cha Seung Baek.

This year, his stuff started to return, and he added a couple of MPH back to his fastball. Using the Pitch F/X data, including a start against the Mariners opposing Miguel Batista, he was regularly hitting 94 MPH with his fastball and matching Batista pitch for pitch in velocity and movement. The complaints about Batista are never about the quality of his stuff, and in the second half of ’07, Colon’s stuff was quite similar to Batista’s.

The results bear this out – his strikeout rate returned to the ’04/’05 level and his HR rate dropped significantly as well. The overall package was a guy who threw strikes (2.5 BB/G), missed bats (6.5 K/G), and got enough groundballs to keep the ball in the park at an acceptable level (41.7% GB, 1.28 HR/G). Based on those rates, we’d have expected his ERA to be somewhere between 4.30 and 5.20.

Instead, it was 6.34. Why? He was absolutely terrible at stranding runners (63.4% LOB%) and the balls that were put in play against him turned into a lot of hits (.361 BABIP). Among pitchers who qualified for the ERA title (and, to be fair, Colon did not, so he’s not part of this sample), only Jose Contreras posted a lower LOB% and no one posted a higher BABIP. As I’m sure you guys know by now, these two numbers are highly influenced by factors outside of the pitchers control and have very little predictive ability. In almost every case, we’re best off assuming that a pitcher will perform at a league average rate, or at least his own personal career average, instead of believing that performance in BABIP or LOB% will carry over from one year to another.

So, we know several things about Bartolo Colon.

1. When he’s healthy, he’s demonstrated that he’s one of the better pitchers in the American League.

2. He hasn’t been healthy the last two years, though he showed improved stuff in the second half of 2007.

3. His ’06 and ’07 ERA are significantly higher than we’d have expected based on his peripheral numbers.

I know it seems like he’s been around forever, but Bartolo Colon is only 34-years-old. If his arm isn’t totally shot (and his stuff and strikeout numbers say that it’s not), there’s no reason to expect him to be totally done as a pitcher yet. However, after battling injuries the last two years and having potential factors beyond his control push his ERA into the stratosphere, Colon is unlikely to be a highly coveted pitcher this winter. He will almost certainly be on everyone’s list as damaged goods.

Colon, right now, reminds me a lot of where Orlando Hernandez was after the ’05 season. He’d struggled with injuries in Chicago, posting a 5.12 ERA and having everyone push him off the cliff as a guy on his last legs. The Diamondbacks acquired him that winter, then dumped him on the Mets the following May after 45 innings where he posted a 6.11 ERA despite good peripheral numbers, largely in part due to a high BABIP and a low LOB%. The Mets stuck him in their rotation and have since been the beneficiaries of 250 high quality innings, as Hernandez’s results caught up with his stuff.

Most major league teams have not yet learned to take smart gambles on pitchers coming off bad years due to factors beyond their control. Bartolo Colon fits the bill as just such a pitcher this winter. We know he’s got the talent – the only real question is health. However, since the team has already loaded up on durable innings eaters, the priority shouldn’t be getting another pitcher who can throw 200 mediocre innings, but instead on finding a guy who may be able to give you 100-150 high quality innings and can slot in as a real #2 starter behind Felix Hernandez.

Bartolo Colon could be that guy. In this market, I expect that his potential and name recognition will be enough to get him a decent payday, so I’m thinking he’ll end up with something in the $7-$9 million range for one year, potentially with vesting options for future years based on innings pitched.

Colon at 1 year, $9 million would be a bargain. I’d probably be willing to go 2/16 or 3/21 if need be. There aren’t any other pitchers of Bartolo Colon’s quality available for a reasonable cost this winter, and it’s not often that you get a chance to acquire a guy with this kind of potential at such a low price in free agency.

Bartolo Colon – USSM endorsed pitching acquisition of the winter.


102 Responses to “The Hidden Gem Of Free Agent Pitchers”

  1. msb on October 24th, 2007 8:58 am

    I’d be fine with Bart. He has always seemed at home on the mound in Safeco.

  2. Brooklyn on October 24th, 2007 9:11 am

    Sounds great to me, but would 1/9, 2/16, 3/21 REALLY going to get it done? Those sound like reasonable numbers but it seems to me that “reasonable numbers” and “free agent pitcher” are rarely used in the same sentence. Seems like there’s always one or two knucklehead owners willing to overpay substantially – especially for someone like Colon.

  3. Grizz on October 24th, 2007 9:19 am

    I could actually see Bavasi signing Colon as this year’s Jose Guillen reclamation project. Colon is a “name,” will not require a long-term contract (but Bavasi will overpay anyway), and is a former Angel (jokes aside, Bavasi evaluates and values players in a similar manner as the Angels organization).

  4. Tek Jansen on October 24th, 2007 9:26 am

    If Colon is large enough to fill both of the empty spots in the M’s rotation, then he would be a terrific bargain. But that’s unlikely. However, he will need to raise the armrest for his seat on the M’s charter flights. Fat jokes aside, Dave’s idea is sound.

  5. HamNasty on October 24th, 2007 9:29 am

    I could make fun of a plump and decent pitcher for 1/9, 2/16. 3 years with his injury past and seeing he would be entering his late 30s with his body type scares me though. I also agree to sign the big guy from LAA.

  6. Brian Rust on October 24th, 2007 9:39 am

    Dave, to what extent could the M’s use actual medical examinations to determine Colon’s health? Didn’t they do that with Sexson’s shoulder?

  7. joser on October 24th, 2007 9:39 am

    Three years from now he’ll be 37, and I doubt his health will be better then than it has been lately. On a three year deal, I’d bet you’ll be paying for a lot of months when he’s shut down, or in the hospital, or down in Arizona on rehab getting his strength back. You could even be paying for the first year (or more) of his retirement. I’m not against the idea per se, but three years? Team options, sure; minimal base salary with lots of incentive clauses, ok. But an outright three year deal just seems a little crazy. But hey, it’s not my money.

  8. Dave on October 24th, 2007 9:42 am

    Notice how the three year proposal is only for $21 million? 2/16 or 3/21 – the difference is only $5 million total.

  9. junglist215 on October 24th, 2007 9:54 am

    Nice selection. He’s certainly not going to be a Type A free agent. So he won’t cost us much in the way of draft picks. As far as persuing injury plagued reclamation projects, my vote goes to this guy.

  10. joser on October 24th, 2007 9:54 am

    Yeah, I did. And salaries in ’10 are likely to be so much crazier that $5M will be the kind of thing that gets lost between the seat cushions without anybody noticing. But you’re still paying $5M for the age 37 year of a guy who’s recently had injuries in almost every part of his arm. I’m just dubious that $5M is going to get you anything.

  11. CCW on October 24th, 2007 9:57 am

    If he’s healthy – and teams will check – Colon will get more money than that.

  12. joser on October 24th, 2007 9:58 am


  13. PositivePaul on October 24th, 2007 10:03 am

    Ach, Gerpotenwogen!

    I was just going to sit down and come up with a list of players I thought would be a good fit for the M’s. Colon was at the top of that list, for very similar reasons stated here (thinking that he might be a little easier to acquire because of his recent injury history). I was actually sorta worried that I might come across as absurd in my reasoning. Now, anything I write is going to come across as following the USSM bandwagon. Heh.

    Anyway, yeah, I fully endorse the idea of signing Bartolo. I don’t think GMs — and Bavasi specifically — undervalue guys like Bartolo, though, since he’s been a Cy Young winner recently. But I do think Bavasi would actually consider Colon. He’d probably give him 2/20-2/24 with an option for a third year, if not the third year all together guaranteed. And, honestly, it may be overpaying, but it’s a risk I can see him taking…

  14. junglist215 on October 24th, 2007 10:05 am


  15. Grizz on October 24th, 2007 10:06 am

    Mark Mulder is a pretty good comp for Colon’s situation, and Mulder got 2 years/$13 million guaranteed plus incentives.

  16. Jeff Nye on October 24th, 2007 10:15 am

    I endorse this acquisition, because his name is fun to say if you roll the Rs for as long as you can manage.


  17. [] on October 24th, 2007 10:18 am


  18. Matthew Carruth on October 24th, 2007 10:21 am

    As for Colon, like the idea, but as always, it rests on the Mariners actually paying someone at a bargain rate.

    I’d like to hear D&Ds opinions on Burnett.

  19. bermanator on October 24th, 2007 10:28 am

    I actually think you could get Colon for those numbers, or close to it. Given his age, weight and injury history, I doubt many teams will be willing to go that third year, but it’s not a bad risk in this market.

  20. DMZ on October 24th, 2007 10:54 am

    I nuked the Woods hijack comments. There will be other posts and threads, and it’s early in the comments to hijack the Colon discussion into wider off-season discussions.

  21. induced entropy on October 24th, 2007 11:08 am

    Tek said,

    “If Colon is large enough to fill both of the empty spots in the M’s rotation, then he would be a terrific bargain. But that’s unlikely. However, he will need to raise the armrest for his seat on the M’s charter flights. Fat jokes aside, Dave’s idea is sound.”

    Heh heh. I can’t believe nobody jumped all over that one. YES! Colon is more than large enough to fill 2 or 3 spots in the rotation… at least from a pure size perspective!

  22. induced entropy on October 24th, 2007 11:10 am

    Seriously though, I like the idea and we simply cannot put the fat jokes aside with regards to Bartolo– fat jokes will come with the territory, for better or worse.

  23. Tom on October 24th, 2007 11:18 am


    Believe it or not I’d rather have Morrow and R.R. Smith in the rotation than waste money (a lot of money if you belive he’ll get a 3 year deal somewhere) on a guy whose best days may be behind him.

  24. HamNasty on October 24th, 2007 11:25 am

    I would rather Bavasi waste money on Colon then the next late night sports commentator/DH.

    Colon has a chance to turn it around and trade value if he does should 08 be a disaster.

  25. Dave on October 24th, 2007 11:25 am

    Johan Santana’s best days are behind him, too. Do you not want him either?

    And Brandon Morrow has about as much chance of being a good major league starter next April as I do.

  26. Tom on October 24th, 2007 11:33 am

    #25: Johan Santana > Bartolo Colon (by far)

    And with Colon you are taking a huge gamble on him staying healthy and having a rebound season.

    Obviously he’s more prepared for the big leagues than Morrow but I’m sorry, after we’ve wasted money on the likes of Jeff Weaver, Jarrod Washburn, and Miguel Batista (who half the time can’t get out of the 6th inning), I just am not willing to give a large sum of money over to an overweight 34 year old pitcher with “veteran grit.”

    Not a chance.

  27. S-Mac on October 24th, 2007 11:34 am

    Dave – USSM reader officially endorsed hilarious pitching acquisition of next April.

  28. Blastings Thrilledge on October 24th, 2007 11:40 am

    Is he still a hidden gem if he’s advertised all over the U.S.S. Mariner? All those blog-reading front offices will be scrambling to sign him now.

  29. Dave on October 24th, 2007 11:43 am

    So let’s not make any good pitching acquisitions because we’re tired of all the bad ones the organization has made? That’s logical.

    If you want to win next year, you can’t count on Brandon Morrow to contribute any meaningful innings as a starter. He’s so far away from being a useful member of a rotation that 2009 might even be stretching it. He needs a lot of work.

  30. nickpdx on October 24th, 2007 11:50 am

    Only if Ibanez never sets foot in LF while Colon is on the hill. Probably same for Guillen in right.

    Colon’s posted GB% over the last 4 seasons of 38, 43, 40 and 41, according to the Hardball Times’ stats. Add that to our ’07 outfield defense and you get a heaping helping of Fail.

  31. bakomariner on October 24th, 2007 11:52 am

    he’d probably be a good signing, and i thought about it the last time he pitched and hudler was saying how he is a free agent and how everyone will be after him, but i don’t know how long it would take to like him…i’ve hated him for so long…every time he shut us down…and he is the MLB’s Jabba the Hut look-a-like…it would be tough…

  32. Dave on October 24th, 2007 11:55 am

    League average GB% is 43%. By that standard, you’re not going to allow anyone on the staff who isn’t a groundball pitcher, and you’d be throwing Putz, Sherrill, Morrow, Washburn, Rowland-Smith, Baek, and Feierabend overboard.

  33. bakomariner on October 24th, 2007 11:57 am

    what are the chances of seattle signing Kuroda? wouldn’t he be the “gem” of the FA class?

  34. Jeff Nye on October 24th, 2007 11:57 am

    I would buy a ticket to watch Dave pitch.

    And Colon isn’t being advocated as an acquisition based on “veteran grit”.

    He’s being advocated as an acquisition based on him being a pitcher with good skills and an upside to have a good rebound that is likely to be undervalued because, yes, there are risks associated with acquiring him.

    But, really, EVERY free agent pitcher is a risk, and you can’t be so risk-averse that you miss out on opportunities to patch holes in your team inexpensively.

  35. Tom on October 24th, 2007 11:59 am

    #29: It’s not that, it’s just that whatever happened to all the UNDERvalued talent out there instead of the OVERvalued talent like Bartolo Colon?

    Colon will be judged in the free agent market by some stupid general managers based on his track record and not his potential. At 1 year and $5-$8 million with at the very least Adam Jones and Ichiro will be roaming the outfield and not Ibanez, sure you can take out a flyer on him in a weak free agent market like this.

    But I’m just telling you, that’s not the way it’ll turn out. With a track record like his lurking out there along with some gullible GMs that constantly buy into that kind of stuff, he has 3 years-$10 million a year written all over him.

    If we are going to get some legitimate pitching help along with being a little cost effective at the same time, we are probably going to need to come up with a better solution than Bartolo Colon.

  36. nickpdx on October 24th, 2007 12:00 pm

    We’re not evaluating the guys already on the roster, rather evaluating the suggestion to add Colon to the staff.

    At 40% he’d be in the bottom 10 qualifying starters, and unless the outfield defense improves, should the M’s be going after a guy with that characteristic?

  37. Tom on October 24th, 2007 12:01 pm

    #34: Maybe “veteran grit” isn’t the factor that’s being advocated by Dave or anyone else here, but it could be in the M’s front office. Lord knows to them that’ll be a bonus.

  38. Dave on October 24th, 2007 12:02 pm

    You can’t come up with one single example of a pitcher in a similar situation getting anything close to 3/30.

  39. Jeff Nye on October 24th, 2007 12:04 pm

    So, if other teams in the marketplace are offering Bartolo Colon 3 years at $10 million per year, you snicker at them under your breath and walk away.

    And we all know that the M’s are not good at talent evaluation, otherwise these sorts of suggestions wouldn’t even need to be made.

    What they actually are likely to DO doesn’t affect the validity of the suggestion, though.

  40. Dave on October 24th, 2007 12:10 pm

    At 40% he’d be in the bottom 10 qualifying starters, and unless the outfield defense improves, should the M’s be going after a guy with that characteristic?

    Well, the outfield defense is going to improve, for one, but you also can’t focus in on one singular factor and ignore the rest of the skills. Johan Santana, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Javier Vazquez also fall in the “bottom 10 qualifying starters”, and I’d be happy to have any of those three on the staff.

    Groundballs are one way to succeed. Missing bats is another. If you strike out a ton of batters, giving up flyballs isn’t a huge problem. Colon misses enough bats to make his flyball tendencies less of a worry.

  41. nickpdx on October 24th, 2007 12:16 pm

    Sure, strikeouts would definitely mitigate the risk of his flyball tendency. Let’s say he gets 6 K/9, a slight regression from 2007 but much better than his horrible 2006. That makes him Miguel Batista with more flyballs and a ton more HR, doesn’t it?

  42. nickpdx on October 24th, 2007 12:19 pm

    Which, to finish the though, might be OK in some respects… Batista may have had a solid season in ’07 but I don’t look at him and go, “more of that, please!”

  43. Evan on October 24th, 2007 12:21 pm

    #34: Maybe “veteran grit” isn’t the factor that’s being advocated by Dave or anyone else here, but it could be in the M’s front office. Lord knows to them that’ll be a bonus.

    Just because the front office will use flawed reasoning to reach the conclusion, that’s no reason to oppose the conclusion if it also happens to be correct.

  44. scott19 on October 24th, 2007 12:27 pm

    The whole “veteran grit” issue aside, can Big Bart possibly be that much more of a risk than Weaver was?

    Might be worth a roll of the dice…

  45. Dave on October 24th, 2007 12:29 pm

    Let’s just call it 6.2 K/9 to make the math easy – that’s what Batista’s strikeout rate was last year. Batista’s BIP% were as follows:

    GB% – 44%
    FB% – 39%
    LD% – 17%

    On a grand total of 624 BIP (not including infield flies or bunts).

    Now, if we assume that Colon has the same amount of BIP, but we go with a 41/42/17 split intead, the overall difference would be 12 groundballs.

    12 groundballs the whole year. The difference in walkrate swamps the difference in ground ball rate.

  46. CCW on October 24th, 2007 12:37 pm

    Dave, No. 38: “You can’t come up with one single example of a pitcher in a similar situation getting anything close to 3/30.”

    Not sure what you mean by “similar situation”. Burnett got way more than you’re suggesting Colon will get, and he came with a track record of injuries. Zito got way more money, and his track record is worse than Colon’s (although no injuries). Washburn was hurt the year before the M’s signed him and he doesn’t have Colon’s track record. Meche got… whatever he got… as the survivor of 2 labrum surgeries and multiple trips to the DL for various dead-arm issues and tweaks.

    It all comes down to Colon’s health and, if he’s healthy, he’s going to get more than you’re suggesting. If he’s not healthy, then I don’t think we want him. I just don’t think the model of going after undervalued players works in the case of pitchers who are undervalued solely because of injury.

  47. Dave on October 24th, 2007 12:41 pm

    A.J. Burnett, year prior to signing contract: 209 IP, 3.44 ERA
    Barry Zito, year prior to signing contract: 197 IP, 4.53 ERA
    Jarrod Washburn, year prior to signing contract: 177 IP, 3.20 ERA
    Gil Meche, year prior to signing contract: 186 IP, 4.48 ERA

    Do you really think these are comparable situations to Bartolo Colon’s 99 innings and 6.34 ERA?

    As previously mentioned, the best comparison from last year is Mark Mulder, and a bidding war got him 2/13. You could maybe throw Adam Eaton into the mix – coming off injury, got 3/24, but he’d only missed one year with a less serious injury and was 29 years old, not 34 like Colon will be. That was clearly a huge factor in the contract the Phillies gave him.

    The recent history is pretty clear – teams pay for recent year success and/or durability. Colon has neither right now.

  48. CCW on October 24th, 2007 12:46 pm

    Here are a few more: Kelvim Escobar got 3 years, $28M, with injury issues and no track record of success as a starter, a few years ago. Jason Schmidt got 3 years, $47M. If you look through starting pitcher salaries over the past few years, sheer mediocrity, with zero upside, costs about 3 years, $22M.

    And this is the toughest market yet for starting pitchers.

  49. CCW on October 24th, 2007 12:52 pm

    I agree that there isn’t a great anology for Colon’s situation. But I also think Mulder was way further removed from success than Colon. Mulder was, by most folks’ estimations, clearly cooked.

    I think you’re ignoring my point about Colon’s health and the fact that teams will actually investigate that before making their decision. Whatever, we’ll find out in few months what happens.

    Anyway, we’ll find out in a few months.

  50. Matthew Carruth on October 24th, 2007 12:53 pm

    CCW, your statement on Escobar is patently false. He had success as a starter. Witness 2003-4, the healthy part of 05 and the start of 06.

    Schmidt came off three years where he put up 32, 29 and 32 starts with ERAs of 3.2, 4.4 and 3.6

    Not even close to comparable

  51. Matthew Carruth on October 24th, 2007 12:55 pm

    But I also think Mulder was way further removed from success than Colon. Mulder was, by most folks’ estimations, clearly cooked.

    Mulder signed his contract in Jan of ’07

    Mulder’s 2005: 32 starts, 205IP, 116 ERA+

  52. Dave on October 24th, 2007 12:56 pm

    What you’re saying just isn’t true, though. Teams pay for durability (Zito, Suppan, Marquis) or recent success (Burnett, Pavano, Wright, Washburn), and occassionally, they’ll pay for unfulfilled potential in younger pitchers (Meche, Lilly).

    There’s no evidence – none, zero, zilch, zip, nada – that teams are willing to pay big money for guys who are in their mid-30s, have health issues, and are 2+ years removed from their last successful season.

  53. HamNasty on October 24th, 2007 1:03 pm

    They do have a nice history with HoRam, only 76IP last year. Colon wouldn’t be that different besides that he was once actually good.

  54. CCW on October 24th, 2007 1:04 pm

    I concede. You win the argument based on the “evidence” you have provided of what teams are willing to pay big money for.

  55. darrylzero on October 24th, 2007 1:09 pm

    Does it really matter that much? Dave clearly isn’t advocating picking him up for more than he outlined, so if some GM does go crazy (whether or not that’s likely) and offer Colon way too much money, how does that affect the debate at all? Then it won’t be a good idea to sign him, in which case, no one at USSM would support it. I fail to see the argument about what some pitching desperate GM might do as productive.

  56. Sec 108 on October 24th, 2007 1:17 pm

    Sometimes first impressions are hard to forget. No matter how good Bartolo has been in his career, I always remember his first start ever against the M’s in the Kingdome. He only recorded two outs and managed to walk John Marzano with the bases loaded. I think he threw 68 pitches before he got yanked.

    I am sure that he would be a great pitcher to take a chance on, but I know I would be white knuckled every time he pitches.

  57. BP on October 24th, 2007 1:29 pm

    If it was a Weaver-like deal then sure. I’d take a shot with a one year deal for $8ish million. It’s better than someone like Kyle Lohse for 4/$32.

    Another guy I would take a look at on a one year deal is Schilling, I just don’t know what his market will be like.

  58. Jeff Nye on October 24th, 2007 1:34 pm

    As far as the health issue goes:

    No credible doctor is going to pronounce Bartolo Colon 100% healthy.

    What they MAY say is something like “there’s a 50% chance he’ll blow his arm out and his career is over”.

    Each team has to take a look at that number, whatever it happens to be (in other words, I made 50% up), and decide what they’re willing to offer based on that; but every team will include some risk factor of Colon dissolving into a frothy liquid while on the mound in what they offer for his services.

  59. msb on October 24th, 2007 1:35 pm

    sigh. Gas lamenting the Mariners “kicking a free agent to the curb”, because after all, “the Mariners had the best throwing outfield in baseball last year”

  60. Spanky on October 24th, 2007 1:42 pm

    There is one MAJOR factor that will impact Colon’s ability to get a good contract I haven’t seen mentioned yet but in comedic relief…that is his weight. From what I have heard, most people would agree that Colon be a top #1 but for his love of food and inability to keep his weight under control. I don’t know if this ties in to his “professional work ethic” or not, but it will impact his ability to get a wild FA contract.

    Combine injury with weight problems…and I think you can predict an undervalued Colon in the market this winter!

  61. Typical Idiot Fan on October 24th, 2007 1:51 pm


    Interesting idea. I admit, I hadn’t looked at Bartolo Colon at all because I was fairly sure he had gone Jeff Weaver on everybody. But you also mentioned Jose Contreras, do you see him as an effective backup “just in case” or is that just too expensive to compare?

    Also, I wonder about Dontrelle Willis. I know it’s been discussed to the point of absurdity, but he’s been having problems other then just sucking. I wonder if he’s recoverable or if he’s done.

  62. bermanator on October 24th, 2007 1:56 pm

    Dave clearly isn’t advocating picking him up for more than he outlined, so if some GM does go crazy (whether or not that’s likely) and offer Colon way too much money, how does that affect the debate at all?

    It matters because Dave is now saying not only that Seattle should get him for that kind of contract, but also that said contract will all but certainly get him because nobody will go higher.

    The former is a convincing argument. I think probably Dave is right on the latter, but I also agree with post No. 49 that it’s silly to argue it because the answer will clearly be proven or disproven within the next few months.

    And I think, frankly, that Dave’s track record in talent evaluation is better than his track record at predicting what other teams will pay free agents or surrender in trade. Looking at the advice he offered in Oct. 2006 for roster reconstruction, for example, he was right on the benefits on re-signing Ichiro and signing Dice-K — but very wrong on the money it would take to do so.

    (Also, in the same column that he suggested signing Lopez should the Orioles cut him, he also suggested trading Wladmir Balentien as part of a package for Jim Edmonds, which would not have turned out quite as well.)

  63. joser on October 24th, 2007 1:59 pm

    You know, if his history of health problems had involved his knees, or his hips, or his ankles, then I’d be more worried about his weight. And obviously if he keeps growing that could happen. But I haven’t heard anyone say his weight contributed to his arm problems (got any links, Spanky?) or that his status as a pitcher is directly tied to his weight or that his weight suggests a work ethic incompatible with pitching.

    Though if he does keep growing like some Dominican Bibendum, and has success with the M’s anyway, he might not serve as the best example for Felix.

  64. S-Mac on October 24th, 2007 2:20 pm

    61: I think I’ve seen Dave mention that Dontrelle will be out of professional baseball soon.

  65. gwangung on October 24th, 2007 2:28 pm

    Does it really matter that much? Dave clearly isn’t advocating picking him up for more than he outlined, so if some GM does go crazy (whether or not that’s likely) and offer Colon way too much money, how does that affect the debate at all? Then it won’t be a good idea to sign him, in which case, no one at USSM would support it. I fail to see the argument about what some pitching desperate GM might do as productive.

    Ding ding ding!

    And I think, frankly, that Dave’s track record in talent evaluation is better than his track record at predicting what other teams will pay free agents or surrender in trade

    Well, that’s also true, but it doesn’t change whether the Ms should try to get Colon at the price he mentioned. If they can, it seems to be a good deal. If the price goes higher—then it isn;t a good deal and they shouldn’t try.

  66. Uncle Ted on October 24th, 2007 2:33 pm

    does anyone know anything about potential japanese imports Kuroda, Uehara? How do they compare to Colon?

  67. CCW on October 24th, 2007 2:37 pm

    C’mon, guys. My point (and I’m not the only one) is that I disagree with Dave that Colon has an undervalued skill and would be a good deal. Dave’s point was not simply that, if Colon is a good deal, the M’s should sign him. That’s just plain obvious, and it applies to anyone – if it’s a good deal, they should do it. Well… duh. I don’t think Dave would spend 18 paragraphs to say just that. His point was that Colon is likely be undervalued by the market. And that’s the point I was disputing (although I’ve since conceded).

  68. Spanky on October 24th, 2007 2:40 pm


    I don’t consider myself well read in the way that Dave is, but just doing a quick search on Yahoo, I come up with a number of items related to Colon’s injuries and weight problem linkage. I quote For a pitcher with chronic knee, back, and weight problems, Bartolo Colon got a lot of guys out. If only he came to camp in shape; in 2000, he arrived at the Indians’ spring training complex carrying 248 pounds on his six-foot frame.

    (they go on to mention that despite his weight…he still get’s a lot of guys out. This was written while he was still with Cleveland so it is a bit old…but he was a lot younger then and it was a problem. I never heard anyone say he was “over it” or had lost weight.)

    They mention knee and back problems associated with his weight…that is a problem. Also…does he influence Felix negatively? Take him out eating after games? mmmm….

  69. Spanky on October 24th, 2007 2:45 pm

    I should also point out that if I remember correctly, I think Dave wrote something that disputed whether weight had any negative impact on pitching (see David Wells). And I think that Bartolo is a good pitcher. But if the weight makes him more injury prone…that’s a problem. I think that’s one of the reasons why the Angels would let him go to FA.

  70. Evan on October 24th, 2007 3:00 pm

    I always wanted David Wells. He’s my all-time favourite pitcher.

    I guess I’ll have to settle for Colon.

    But, if he pitches in the rain, can we call it Colonic Irrigation?

  71. msb on October 24th, 2007 3:32 pm

    Moyer is on KJR for 30 min., doing WS pre-game.

  72. Bender on October 24th, 2007 3:35 pm

    Teams do pay for Name Recognition though, right? Won’t Colon’s name as a former ace drive up his price more than it would otherwise?

  73. Evan on October 24th, 2007 3:44 pm

    Probably a bit, but that 6+ ERA should do the opposite.

  74. Jay R. on October 24th, 2007 3:53 pm

    Maybe Colon could help Felix as a cautionary tale; don’t take care of your body and this is where you end up! As long as they weren’t eating together it might work out.

    I am not sure I could stand to watch Colon smack his lips chewing his gum for 35 starts, but if he could eat some innings and help the Ms get to the postseason, I could probably overlook it.

  75. eternal on October 24th, 2007 3:54 pm

    Does name recognition matter to the fans and therefore, the front office?

  76. Tom on October 24th, 2007 4:34 pm

    #75: Name recognition at least matters to the casual fans if that vote on the Mariners website about who should be in the outfield next year tells you anything.

    But when you are actually the GM and director of scouting, etc, name recognition will get you only so far.

  77. joser on October 24th, 2007 4:39 pm

    Hey, that would’ve been quite the staff — Colon, Wells, Livan Hernandez, Blanton, heck, get Fernando Valenzuela out of retirement because we need that veteran grit (and because I can’t think of a 5th fatty pitcher not named Ruth). It’s the One Ton Rotation!

  78. Tom on October 24th, 2007 4:49 pm

    #77: I’ll call Rich Garces to be your closer.

  79. FrankTheTank on October 24th, 2007 5:08 pm


    Looking back at your “Undervalued Pitcher” post from last year, you wanted Rodrigo Lopez for $2 M a year. He signed with Colorado for over twice that ($4.35 M.)

    The question isn’t whether you’d want Colon, it’s “Would you be happy even if the M’s offered 2 years/$22 M or 3 years/$30?”

  80. scott19 on October 24th, 2007 5:09 pm

    77: And, how ’bout Tigers legend Mickey Lolich for pitching coach?! :)

  81. scott19 on October 24th, 2007 5:16 pm

    CTTOI, Joser, wonder if we could get Sid Fernandez out of retirement as a lefty set-up guy while we’re at it?!

  82. bermanator on October 24th, 2007 6:08 pm

    …Rodrigo Lopez for $2 M a year. He signed with Colorado for over twice that ($4.35 M.)

    They actually wound up having to trade a couple of bodies for Lopez — Baltimore didn’t release him.

  83. Bodhizefa on October 24th, 2007 6:50 pm

    Sign me up. And I’m also in the Randy Wolf boat as well. Wolf has a bit more risk injury-wise, but I wouldn’t be too scared to sign him to a one-year deal. I’ve always been a big R.W. fan, and I could see him succeeding in Safeco just fine as long as Raul wasn’t in the outfield for the majority of the time.

  84. kenshabby on October 24th, 2007 9:24 pm

    I could live with a rotation of:
    1. King Felix
    2. Colon
    3. Washburn
    4. Batista
    5. Baek

    Not the sexiest starting 5, but I’ll take it over 2007′s iteration. BTW, any word on the two-headed Weaver/Ramirez monster?

  85. Steve Nelson on October 24th, 2007 9:30 pm

    wonder if we could get Sid Fernandez out of retirement as a lefty set-up guy while we’re at it?!

    How about Sidd Finch?? So what if he might have lost a bit off his fastball? When you start at 168 mph, losing 10 or 20 mph would still leave you with a virtually unhittable fastball. Since he hasn’t exactly made a name for himself playing the French horn, perhaps he would be willing to give baseball another shot.

  86. Al in Portland on October 24th, 2007 9:53 pm

    Note to Jay R (No. 74)… Colon may or may not be an innings eater anymore, but he appears to eat about everything else.

  87. joser on October 24th, 2007 10:24 pm

    I think Sidd is dead. Of course, given that was a Buddhist, he may already be pitching again somewhere.

  88. Teej on October 25th, 2007 12:52 am

    Compelling argument, Dave. Definitely not what I expected to read. Before looking at peripherals, Colon just screams bad contract, because I think of him as a “track record” guy who’s declining pretty quickly. But consider me about 75% convinced.

  89. Mr. Egaas on October 25th, 2007 7:27 am

    Just keep him away from Felix at the buffet lines.

  90. msb on October 25th, 2007 7:49 am

    you know, after yesterdays nice column on Moyer, I was feeling a little more charitable towards Kelley, but this morning — well, I looked at the link in all innocence, assuming it was an article about pitching, based on the headline. Silly me. You know, I didn’t think he had any more cliches left to use, but he proved me wrong.

  91. ira on October 25th, 2007 8:15 am

    So would it be in our best interests to send a large Old Country Buffet gift certificate to Colon to ensure low bids?

  92. Mike Honcho on October 25th, 2007 8:44 am

    Steve Kelley called Stottlemyre “quite possibly, is the best pitching coach in the game” in his Times article today.

    He also called Charlton a “Stottlemyre in waiting.”

    Which may actually be accurate…

  93. Carson on October 25th, 2007 8:52 am

    I’m not sure you can call a guy who won the AL Cy Young just two years ago a hidden gem. He’ll get plenty of looks. How many offers he gets because of the injuries is questionable, but it’s not like anyone will go “Bartolo who?” and turn away without some consideration. We certainly can’t expect the Mariners to outsmart many other clubs and steal him.

    As long as some other team doesn’t theow a ton of money at him, and he can be had for Dave’s price range, I’m all for it. Though, I fear in this market his name will earn him a couple more million per season.

  94. CCW on October 25th, 2007 9:04 am

    Nate Silver, in his Baseball Prospectus chat yesterday, endorsed Colon as one of the few pitchers likely to be undervalued this off-season. He said: “I think “broken” pitchers like Colon, Dontrelle Willis and Eric Gagne are definitely where the bargains in this free agent class lie.” (and he called Dontrelle a “de facto” free agent). We shall see.

  95. Jeff Nye on October 25th, 2007 9:43 am

    The entire premise of this post is that you go after Colon if he’s undervalued by the market, and Dave gives reasons why that is likely to happen.

    If he ends up not being undervalued by the market because some crazy GM out there wants to give him 3/45 or something like that, then you stay far, far away.

  96. Evan on October 25th, 2007 10:02 am

    The whole point of the off-season is to do things like the Guillen deal. Guillen was undervalued by the market, so we signed him to a contract that was a good deal for us.

  97. sevenfly on October 25th, 2007 11:27 am

    Great write up on Colon… any chance of getting similar analysis on Santana? How good of a fit would he be, best guess on who it would take to get him and would it be worth it, would a long term contract be smart for him… those typical questions.

    I rarely post or log in, but read all the time. Outstanding blogging this year guys, best on the web.

  98. Evan on October 25th, 2007 11:36 am

    A one-year rental like Santana is almost never worth it.

  99. swwashfan on October 25th, 2007 11:53 am

    I don’t know what to make of Bartolo Colon. But for an alternative perspective check out today’s hardball times and their post about valuing free agents. According to their analysis:
    I know you’re dying to see the next list: the worst values of 2007:

    Colon, Bartolo ($9,949,934)
    Kendall, Jason ($9,118,644)
    Sexson, Richie ($8,840,459)
    Schmidt, Jason ($8,678,969)
    Jennings, Jason ($8,549,268)
    Giambi, Jason ($8,545,215)
    Monroe, Craig ($8,174,059)
    Maroth, Mike ($7,875,913)
    Gibbons, Jay ($7,612,287)
    Durham, Ray ($7,177,283)

    This list is usually dominated by pitchers, but not so much this year. Still, Bartolo Colon, who was the sixth-worst value last year, tops the list this year.

    If Dave is right, Bartolo Colon would be more than a hidden gem, he would be the MLB version of Lazarus coming back from the dead – especially at the numbers Dave tosses out.

    With regard to the Mariners overall ability to get value out of free agents the Hardball Times evaluation is:

    Speaking of free agents, you may have noticed that Seattle had both a top 10 best free agent value (Ichiro) and bottom 10 worst free agent value (Sexson). Overall, Seattle actually squeezed more value out of its free agents than any other team, a factor in their fine year. Mariner free agents with positive values included Ichiro, Raul Ibanez ($8.8 million), Jose Guillen ($5 million) and Johjima ($5 million). Here is the list of the top five teams, ranked by free agent value:

    SEA $25,628,277
    TB $19,239,443
    DET $17,130,918
    CHN $15,196,158
    ATL $12,864,675

  100. bakomariner on October 25th, 2007 12:08 pm

    99- batista isn’t mentioned? he lead the team in wins…very good FA pickup last year…

  101. scott19 on October 25th, 2007 1:15 pm

    91: Not a bad idea — the M’s could give OCB a big old oversize banner at Safeco next year!

    BTW, I think we forgot to add our old pal Freddy G. and his trusty sidekick Sir Sidney Ponson to that “Big Guys” rotation.

  102. swwashfan on October 25th, 2007 1:26 pm

    100 – I thought Batista was mentioned in the post. As I re-read it, he obviously wasn’t. However the posting is a teaser to buy the 2008 Hardball Times Annual and the analysis is based upon a Win Share Added formula. I didn’t find a link to Batista’s value. However my guess is that it ranks with Seattle’s other positive FA’s to offet Richie’s bottom 10 ranking and still leaving the Mariners far ahead in FA value.

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