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Should the Oakland A’s pursue Bartolo Colon?

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Every ounce of depth helps.

Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s need pitching depth. Right now their rotation consists of Mike Fiers, then a few out-of-options swingmen, then a couple top prospects who have barely pitched at Triple-A if at all, and then a bunch of guys who will return from injuries at various points in the spring and summer. There are some names, but not a whole lot of certainty about most of them.

It sure doesn’t look like any big additions are coming this winter, and even another cheap innings-eater or bounce-back candidate wouldn’t solve everything. And even when they do put together their best five arms, we’ve seen the toll injuries can take over the course of a summer.

That means they need depth, and lots of it. They need to maximize their pool of auditions this spring to increase the chances of finding some keepers, and they need to make sure there far more than five starters still available once the season starts. Not everyone can satisfy both criteria, though — for example, the recently claimed Parker Bridwell adds a name to the pile, but he’s out of options so he doesn’t really add to the long-term depth. He’ll either beat out one of the other out-of-options guys (Mengden, Montas, Bassitt), or he’ll have to be waived anew by the end of spring.

With the packed roster, there’s only so much space to add more flyers like Bridwell or Tanner Anderson. However, there is another way to add depth, and that is minor league free agency. The A’s made full use of this just last spring, inking Brett Anderson to a non-roster contract that allowed them to wait until they needed him in May before rostering and promoting him. In June, they did it again with Edwin Jackson. If using a taxi squad of optionable relievers is a loophole to functionally expand your 25-man roster, then finding legit MLB-caliber pitching depth on minor league deals is a way to essentially expand your 40-man.

And I have just the name in mind.

Oh really. Tell me more.

Well now that’s interesting.

I’m not trying to start a rumor here or anything. These tweets are more than a week old (and the first rumor is even older), so if there was actually something tangible brewing between the two sides in real life then we’d have heard about it from the A’s insiders by now. I’m just saying that if these dots ever do get connected, it would indeed be optimal timing to squeeze Bartolo Colon back into the picture.

You only need to think back to last year to see an example of this being worthwhile. Colon got a minor league deal from the Rangers, got the call to MLB a few days into the season, and pitched wonderfully for the first two months — his numbers in his first 11 games (9 starts) were vintage Bartolo, including a quality start against the A’s themselves.

Colon, 2018 first 11 gms: 3.55 ERA, 63⅓ ip, 40 Ks, 7 BB, 13 HR, 4.99 FIP

The homers were a big red flag, and in fact he did tank pretty badly from June on (7.48 ERA). But the pinpoint control was still there, and even at age 45 he was able to string together two months of quality MLB work. The Rangers went 5-4 in his first nine starts, despite being an otherwise terrible team.

Even two months of spot duty would be a boon for this pitching staff. Whether it comes at the beginning of the season while we wait for the prospects to arrive and the injury cases to return, or mid-year once new problems arise, every bit helps and not everyone has to be a full-season contributor. If Bartolo wants a path back to the bigs then it’s hard to see a more open opportunity than in Oakland, much less a contending opportunity. And if he’s got anything at all left then the staff needs all the contingency plans it can get, especially ones that don’t require guaranteed 40-man spots.

Who knows if there’s any chance at all of this happening, but it would make more than zero sense and would carry virtually no risk. And for what it’s worth, the A’s have certainly made a recent habit of bringing back old faces for a second tour. There’s not a soul in Oakland that wouldn’t be thrilled to see the return of this big ol’ smiling mug.

P.S. And if you don’t think Colon is realistic, then this same principle can apply to any veteran on a minor league deal. Suggest your preferred targets in the comments!