Despite going through the formality of not offering Bartolo Colon a qualifying offer for 2014, the Oakland Athletics are still the front-runners to obtain the veteran free agent’s services for 2014.
Being the favorites is hardly a lock, however, and the fact of that matter is that there will be a good number of suitors vying for the 40-year-old’s age-defying arm. As much as Billy Beane and co. likes having the veteran on board and as much value as he’s given the team, it’s likely that goodwill, for what it’s worth, will end up playing a major part in the right-hander’s decision.
Fortunately, that element of their relationship appears to be well, as both parties have expressed an interest for a 2014 encore and potentially beyond; that said, it’s the specificity of the second part, where there might be a wrench thrown in.
See, according to the man himself, Colon would like to pitch for upwards of three more seasons. That’s three years that he won’t be getting from the payroll-conscious Oakland A’s, and I think it’d be fair to say that even if teams believed that he truly found the fountain of youth, that would be enough to give most teams serious pause if it happened to be a contract demand.
Now, that doesn’t happen to be the case, but it does establish a scenario where the A’s could be easily outbid on the free agent market.
Ideally, the A’s would probably love to have Colon back on another incentive-laden one-year deal with a higher base salary than the $3 million that he received in 2013. Since that isn’t happening, however, the team is looking more at a two-year deal that would pay him more annually than the $5.4 million he earned in total (courtesy of MLBTR) after bonuses.
Anywhere from $14-18 million over two seasons seems reasonable, though a one-year deal with an option would be better, of course.
That, however, might not even be enough to lock down the right-hander if the final decision came down to money. With teams like the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays looking hard to pursue short-window veterans to bolster their chances to compete over the next season or two, the market for low-commitment arms (time-wise) with a strong track record might actually end up yielding the most intense bidding wars.
And as it so happens, Colon basically leads that particular segment of the free agent market, since Hiroki Kuroda has limited the teams he will pitch for.
Though it’s hard to see a team giving the former a deal with an annual salary close to the $14.1 million qualifying offer that he didn’t get, it’s not totally inconceivable for a team to offer him an eight-figure annual salary for two seasons. At that point, even if the A’s were aware and were able to match, you’d have to think that it wouldn’t be in their best interest to do so given their budget restrictions.
In that circumstance, they’d be banking on Colon taking a discount on what is probably his last chance to earn a multi-year contract to return to Oakland for the promise of a couple more playoff runs. That’s a feasible scenario, given that the comfort level is already there for the veteran, and pitching for a big-money team like the Yankees isn’t what it used to be (just look at A.J. Burnett, who is going to choose between the Pittsburgh Penguins or retirement).
But what if a team dared to offer the three years that Colon wants? Even if the third year was a vesting option, you’d have to think that would make the difference as it would give the pitcher the chance to accomplish what he wants in the bigs.
It’s not necessarily the most likely scenario and teams who are not located in Los Angeles are pretty money-conscious these days, but goodwill can only trump money at some point. Even though the A’s are still arguably the most likely landing spot for Colon, it’d probably be good for the team to start coming up with a plan B or C because that third year he wants could make the difference — even if it’s not 100 percent about the dollars.