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Bartolo Colon and the Myth of Rotation Depth

Jayson Stark of ESPN now reports it is a done deal: Bartolo Colon to A's on a one-year, pending a physical.

Yesterday Buster Olney of ESPN tweeted that the A's were in negotiation with Bartolo Colon. Then last night Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted that Colon had agreed to a deal with a team but won't divulge the club until he passes his physical. Then later yesterday Jon Heyman of CBSSports chimed in with a tweet that said that two teams rumored to be intrigued by Colon - Arizona and the Yankees - were not the clubs he signed with. That left one rumored suitor, your Oakland Athletics.

Colon will be 39 years old this May and spent last season in Yankee pinstripes going 164 1/3 innings with an even 4.00 ERA and better than that 3.83 FIP. While his xFIP was a better 3.57, he really gave up home runs at a similar rate to what he always had during his career (11.4% in 2011, 11.0% for his career). He bettered both his K/9 (7.4 in 2011, 7.0 career) and BB/9 (2.2 in 2011, 3.0 career) rates while matching his HR/9 rate at 1.1 which is somewhat noteworthy because while Colon hasn't played in pitcher's parks for a lot of his career, Yankee Stadium is particularly home run friendly. The 2005 Cy Young Award winner will be 39 so it is unknown just how much gas is left in the tank, and furthermore it is currently unknown not only what club has signed him but how much he has signed for though he received $900K last year from the Yankees. But whether it is Colon or some other veteran starter, do the A's need rotation depth?

If you read around on the internet, you'd see lots of people who would answer that question with an unequivocal no. The line of thinking is that the A's have a lot of starting pitching depth. But do they really? Not when you look at it. It seems like Brandon McCarthy who was last year's "won the 5th starter job in Spring Training" guy will be the top of the rotation pitcher for the A's. For all my disbelief that what we saw from Guillermo Moscoso last year can be replicated he appears to be the #2 as Dallas Braden another pitcher you could put in either of those slots likely won't be ready by Opening Day but hopefully is sometime in April. So for the sake of this argument let's stick him in as one of the top three and go to #4, is it Josh Outman? Graham Godfrey? Do we go with a new acquisition like Tom Milone or Jarrod Parker? As you can see the decisions start to get more difficult, and remember this is giving a slot to Braden that he may not even be available for.

The point is there is a lot of depth per se, but there isn't a lot of "don't waste your service time, don't get rattled and spooked by MLB hitting" pitching in there. I don't think any A's fans want 2012 to be a make or break year for the likes of Parker or Brad Peacock or even lower-upside Milone. Likewise I don't think any of us want to see that much of Graham Godfrey, and there can be good arguments made that Josh Outman is far from a finished product still despite hanging around a few years. Tyson Ross is a perennial injury risk who has pitched terribly since his return from his last injury, and even looking at the "top" of the rotation, McCarthy is a perennial injury risk and Guillermo Moscoso is one year removed from being DFA'd by Texas and shipped to Oakland for nothing (which could be a major faux pas by the Rangers or could be indicative that he really isn't all that great - speaking of DFA'd don't we all wish we hung onto Phil Humber?).

By signing a Colon, or an Oswalt (Oswalt clearly being the superior pitcher) the A's can gain some additional flexibility with their rotation and not have to force one of the young arms to pitch through trouble. We can let these young arms ripen in Sacramento and blossom into the 2015 American League West Champions we all hope they can blossom into. Furthermore for any of these pitchers the benefit is that it is nearly assured they will be dealt at the line to a contender, providing further bang for the Athletics' limited buck. So I say let's hope we are the mystery team in this low-stakes bidding! Let's see what this old guy has left in his tank, if he can show us what we showed us in person on Memorial Day but wearing our jersey, it'll be icing on the cake.