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Bartolo Colon pitches to an 18-6 record with Oakland last season.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Mets are trying to make more than a gesture at these winter meetings, they are trying to make a statement. And they made a big one Wednesday.
A day after officially adding outfielder Curtis Granderson, the Mets agreed to terms on a two-year, $ 20 million contract with veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon, according to a baseball source.
The second ex-Yankee the Mets have struck deals with in the past week, Colon’s contract is pending a physical and not expected to be officially announced here.
The portly 40-year-old righthander is coming off an 18-win season with the A’s. The 2005 Cy Young Award winner went 8-10 in 2011 with the Yankees.
Colon will join a rotation that already has lefty Jon Niese and righthanders Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler. The Mets landed Colon as a way to get through the 2014 season without ace Matt Harvey, who underwent Tommy John surgery in October and will miss all of next season. The team hopes the fifth spot in the rotation will eventually go to one of the young power arms who will start the season in the minors. Initially, however, it but could be filled internally by righthander Jenrry Mejia, or a lower-end veteran starter like Daisuke Matsuzaka or Aaron Harang.
After stockpiling young power arms over the last three years, the Mets really just wanted to get a starter on a one-year deal. In fact, even after the team agreed to terms with Colon, general manager Sandy Alderson said that the Mets need to be able to give opportunities to pitchers such as Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero.
“We want to maintain some opportunity for our young guys. For us to go out and sign enough pitchers to fill out a rotation we probably thereby preclude some opportunity for young guys we think are probably ready, so it’s a balance,” Alderson said Wednesday night.
“We talk about the good young pitching we have, at some point we have to give it an opportunity to perform. Hopefully we’ll be able to maintain that balance.”
The Mets are hoping that signing Colon, who served a 50-game suspension in 2012 after testing positive for testosterone, will also give them some credibility. The three-time All-Star has a career record of 189-128 and a career 3.94 ERA. Though his name popped up in the Biogenesis scandal, Colon was not one of the 13 players suspended last season.
The pitcher had a resurgence in 2013, going 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA. He struck out 116 and walked 29 in 30 starts. Despite a velocity drop in early August, after which the A’s briefly shut him down, Colon went 4-1 with a 1.25 ERA over his last six starts.
The length of the deal was a surprise, but also seen by some in the organization as a necessary good-faith repayment to their long suffering fans.
With the Mets not having made the playoffs since 2006, Alderson had targeted this offseason when he took over as GM in late 2010, as the long-term contracts of Johan Santana and Jason Bay were due to come off the payroll. He also has looked to 2014 as the season when his rebuilding plan would start to pay dividends.
After five straight losing seasons, and after basically spending the last three offseasons on an austerity budget, the Mets have been on a bit of a binge this offseason. Often mocked for their small-market-like payroll over the last few years, they have now committed $ 87.25 million on three free agents.
Colon’s pact, when it becomes final, will be the second-largest free-agent deal the Mets have made in Alderson’s tenure, behind Granderson’s $ 60 million, four-year contract the club made official on Tuesday. As with the negotiations with Granderson, the Mets conceded on length of contract to get Colon. In Granderson’s case, they wanted to keep the deal to three years, but gave him a fourth.
The Mets also talked to the agents for closers John Axford and Kevin Gregg. … Uber-agent Scott Boras, who represents shortstop Stephen Drew, met with Mets front office personnel Tuesday night. When asked about the Mets’ offseason before the Colon signing, Boras predicted they had room to sign more free agents. Continuing his space theme from the GM meetings, Boras said: “They are a very successful franchise. I think that rocketship has room for six astronauts, more than a couple. We meet with them, we talk to them, the offseason is not done.” … The Mets continued to talk to clubs Wednesday, specifically the Brewers and Rays, about moving first baseman Ike Davis, focusing on the Brewers and Rays after free agent Corey Hart reached a deal with the Mariners. Alderson made clear, however, that the Mets are willing to wait out the market. When asked about Davis, Alderson said: “Let me make one thing clear, we are not in the business of giving away players. We don’t expect to get in that business.”