Bartolo Colon returning to Mets in 2017 now appears no-brainer

Bartolo Colon might be soundest physically on the Mets pitching staff at the start of next season, during which he'll turn 44. Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports

CINCINNATI -- Who would have ever figured this? Bartolo Colon, at age 43, may be the healthiest member of the New York Mets rotation, at least among the planned contributors.

And given the craziness involving the rest of the starting pitchers, it now seems a no-brainer that free-agent-to-be Colon ought to be back with the Mets for a 20th major league season in 2017.

"With or without craziness, he could be," general manager Sandy Alderson said.

When Colon re-upped with the Mets in mid-December on a one-year, $7.25 million deal, he willingly accepted that he would move to the bullpen during the summer, once Zack Wheeler returned from Tommy John surgery rehab.

With Wheeler getting shut down for the remainder of the season because of setbacks, Matt Harvey undergoing surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome, Steven Matz dealing with a shoulder impingement, Jacob deGrom getting skipped on Tuesday because of forearm stiffness and Jonathon Niese having undergone surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, there is now zero thought to dislodging Colon from the rotation. In fact, he arguably is the soundest physically on the staff. The only other intended member of the rotation presently contributing, besides Colon, is Noah Syndergaard. And Syndergaard is pitching with a bone spur in his pitching elbow.

Colon is 12-7 with a 3.35 ERA in 158 2/3 innings entering Monday's start opposite rookie Robert Stephenson in Cincinnati. Colon even was an All-Star selection for the fifth time in his career, although National League and Mets manager Terry Collins took Colon only as an extra-inning safety net, and he went unused.

"I'm pleased to be doing good work. I did expect to be in the bullpen at this point," Colon said through an interpreter. "I'm very thankful for the opportunity to still be starting."

Said Collins: "He has absolutely saved our rotation by going out there with those quality innings. The wins are great, but it's the quality innings that he delivers every time he goes out there that not only saves the starting pitchers, it saves the relievers, too."

Bringing back Colon for 2017 really is no longer a silly idea. Quite the contrary, even though logic suggests his seemingly ageless body eventually will have to give out.

It would seem foolish to presume that Harvey, Syndergaard, deGrom, Matz and Wheeler all will be contributing at full throttle to open next season. That hyped quintet actually has never been active on the major league roster together at any point in their careers.

Colon wants to continue pitching next season, ideally with the Mets. He has 230 career wins. That is within striking distance next season of Hall of Famer Juan Marichal’s 243, which is the most ever by a Dominican-born pitcher. The career wins record for a Latin American pitcher belongs to Nicaragua-born Dennis Martinez with 245.

"I can't really think about that too much, because that would involve thinking ahead to next year," Colon said. "I know it's not something that's going to happen this year. But, yeah, if I caught up to either of those, it would be very meaningful. ... Any record I can break, that means a lot to me. I think, first, I'm more just chasing myself and pushing myself to do better."

As for whether it seems to be becoming increasingly realistic that he could be a Mets starting pitcher again next season, when he will turn 44 years old in May, Colon added: "If they gave me the opportunity, I would be delighted to come back."

Is next season the final season?

"Who knows?" Colon said. "Next year could be my last."