Athletics

Pros and Cons: Reunion make sense for Colon, A's?

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Pros and Cons: Reunion make sense for Colon, A's?

It was the winter of 2012, and the question for the A’s was whether they should take the risk of re-signing right-hander Bartolo Colon at age 39.

Oakland did bring Colon back on a one-year $3 million deal, and he enjoyed an 18-win season in 2013 and made the All-Star team.

Here it is, three years later. Who would have guessed Colon, six months shy of his 43rd birthday, would be planning to return for a 19th major league season? He’s hardly the most sought-after name in a loaded free agent starting pitching market. But Colon’s performance last season for the New York Mets suggests he might have another quality year in him, and he should be affordable on a one-year contract.

[RELATED: A's not likely done dealing after getting Lowrie back from Astros]

He makes sense as a potential target, once again, for the A’s, who have already signed free agent lefty Rich Hill but still are looking to bolster a rotation that will feature its share of inexperience. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of the A’s signing Colon, who has 218 career wins and is one away from tying Pedro Martinez for second-most ever by a Dominican-born pitcher:

PRO: In a winter where so many of the top free agent starters will command multi-year contracts at $40-50 million minimum, Colon figures to be a relative bargain. He’s probably looking at a one-year deal in the $6-10 million range. And if that sounds too steep for a soon-to-be 43-year-old, his recent track record justifies the cost. Over the past three seasons, Colon has averaged 16 wins while posting a 3.65 ERA and a WHIP of 1.211. Last season, he went 14-13 with a 4.16 ERA and logged 194 2/3 innings for the NL East-champion Mets. Yes, he gave up a league-high 217 hits. But that’s because he’s always around the plate. Colon tied for the league lead with just 1.1 walks allowed per nine innings.

CON: It’s obvious … As durable as Colon has been, his age suggests the drop-off could happen at anytime, and be drastic. A flamethrower early in his career, Colon’s fastball now tops out in the high 80’s. He relies predominantly on that fastball and being able to spot it with pinpoint control. Should he start to lose that command, his margin for error is small. The 25 homers Colon allowed in 2015 were his most since he served up 26 in 2005.

[RELATED: Perseverance pays off for new A's starter Rich Hill]

PRO: Colon was an immensely popular figure in the A’s clubhouse during his two-year tenure with the club (2012-13), and a veteran that manager Bob Melvin said younger pitchers can learn from just by observing how he attacks hitters. That holds value considering that Oakland’s rotation, as it currently sets up, includes just two starters with more than one full year of big league experience (Sonny Gray and Rich Hill). Colon goes about his work on the mound in a calm, often expressionless manner. But in the clubhouse, the portly right-hander is known as a fun-loving prankster. Given the chemistry issues that dogged the A’s last season, perhaps they need someone to help keep things loose.

CON: The A’s aren’t regarded as a team that will contend for the AL West title in 2016. Given that’s the case, the emphasis should be on the continued development of younger pitchers. Colon’s presence could block an opportunity for other pitchers who factor more prominently in their future. Gray and Hill could conceivably be joined in the rotation by Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman and Chris Bassitt. All three are 26 or younger. There’s also Aaron Brooks and Sean Nolin, who also will be competing for a rotation spot in spring training. And there will be plenty of camp buzz around the A’s top pitching prospect, lefty Sean Manaea, who led the Arizona Fall League in strikeouts. With Colon locking down one of the five spots, it would mean less opportunity for one of those younger pitchers, even if they shine in the Cactus League.

FOR IT TO HAPPEN: The A’s have to really put stock into the idea of veteran pitching leadership. Billy Beane, Oakland’s executive vice president of baseball operations, was asked in October about the importance of adding a veteran starter. “I think Sonny will be just fine without an older mentor,” Beane quipped. But since then, the A’s have signed the 35-year-old Hill to a one-year $6 million contract. Will Oakland shell out what’s likely to be a larger one-year contract for another savvy veteran in Colon?

PREDICTION: It’s remarkable how little has changed since Colon left the A’s following the 2013 season. He’s still defying the odds, retiring hitters at an impressive rate well into his 40’s. He and the A’s just seem to go well together, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the two sides tried to strike an agreement.

Ex-A's catcher Bruce Maxwell details mental toll of kneeling in HEADSTRONG

Ex-A's catcher Bruce Maxwell details mental toll of kneeling in HEADSTRONG

"It made me feel a little lost in the world."

Former A's catcher Bruce Maxwell made history on Sept. 23, 2017, by being the first MLB player to kneel during the national anthem in protest of racial inequality and police brutality. 

He detailed that day to NBC Sports Bay Area/California in NBC Sports' documentary, "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports."

"When I got to the field, I immediately walked into my manager's office -- had a sit down with him and our GM in private, told them what I was going to do, told them how I was going to go about it -- told them my plan, reasons, and shed a few tears because it's a heartfelt subject for me ... " 

Maxwell knew the backlash he would receive, he just wasn't prepared for the magnitude of it. He received death threats -- and still does to this day.

"The fact that somebody actually took the time to find out what school my sister coached basketball at in Texas, somebody took the time to find out where my mother lived," he explained. 

Maxwell then admitted he rarely left home when he headed back to Arizona following the event. 

"I was miserable," he said. 

He didn't want to do anything. Not exercise, not even talking to his parents.

"At that moment in time, I was standing for something way bigger than myself," Maxwell explained.

Just a few weeks later, the 28-year-old made headlines once again when he was arrested at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct after he allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery worker.

Maxwell told NBC Sports Bay Area/California he was in a certain mental state, and in addition to what was currently going on, he felt he needed to grab his gun in order to protect himself.

"I'm in my house, I'm defending myself, just in case this happens to be one of these crazy-ass people that are sending me threats," Maxwell said

He didn't feel like himself. Not even like a human being, he explained.

[RELATED: Marcus Semien shares mental health journey]

But now, he's freely talking about it and wants to leave his mark on the world with more than just what's going on between the foul lines.

You can watch all of the "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports" vignettes right here. The full documentary will play all month on NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California.

Check our channel listings page for times and dates.

MLB free agency: Five relief pitchers A's could target this offseason

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USATSI

MLB free agency: Five relief pitchers A's could target this offseason

It's no secret that the A's need to improve their bullpen. Oakland blew 30 saves in 2019, the most of any team in the majors.

With that in mind, here are five free agent relief pitchers the A's could target this offseason:

Will Harris

The A's already know Harris well from his time with the Astros. The 35-year-old has spent the last five years in Houston, posting a sparkling 2.36 ERA and 0.99 WHIP.

The 2019 season was the best of Harris' career. The right-hander went 4-1 with four saves, along with a 1.50 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. He notched 62 strikeouts in 60 innings, allowing just 14 walks.

Harris earned $4.225 million this past season and could be due a raise after his terrific performance. However, at the age of 35, he still figures to be an affordable option for Oakland.

Drew Pomeranz

The former A’s left-handed found tremendous success as a reliever this year after getting dealt to Milwaukee. In 25 games with the Brewers, Pomeranz went 0-1 with two saves, a 2.39 ERA, and a 0.91 WHIP. The 30-year-old struck out an eye-popping 45 batters in just 26 1/3 innings, while issuing eight walks.

Pomeranz pitched for the A's in 2014 and 2015, going 10-10 with three saves and a 3.08 ERA. He spent the first part of last season across the Bay in San Francisco, where he struggled mightily as a starter, going 2-9 with a 5.68 ERA. But once he arrived in Milwaukee, he became a completely different pitcher.

Pomeranz earned $1.5 million this year after making $8.5 million in 2018. His new contract will likely fall somewhere between those figures, making a second A's stint a possibility.

Daniel Hudson

A crucial part of the Nationals' World Series title, Hudson figures to be a hot commodity on the free agent market. The 32-year-old went 9-3 with eight saves and a 2.47 ERA between Washington and Toronto, striking out 71 batters in 73 innings.

Hudson also notched four saves in the postseason, going 1-0 with a 3.72 ERA. The right-hander has a career ERA of 3.83 in 10 seasons, with the first four coming as a starter.

Hudson earned just $1.5 million this year and will be in line for a significant raise. Still, the hard-throwing veteran could be worth it for an A's team in need of late-inning options.

[RELATED: Why A's, Hudson would be good fit]

Joe Smith

Smith was superb in limited appearances for the Astros this season. The veteran right-hander went 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 25 innings, striking out 22 and walking five.

Smith, 35, has a career ERA of 2.98 in 13 major league seasons. The sidearm specialist has been particularly effective against right-handed hitters, limiting them to a meager .215/.278/.308 slash line throughout his career.

Smith just completed a two-year, $15 million deal with Houston and could be available for a similar price this time around. The A's would be wise to at least make an inquiry.

Steve Cishek

Cishek is coming off back-to-back stellar seasons with the Cubs. The right-hander combined to go 8-9 with 11 saves and a 2.55 ERA, registering 135 strikeouts 134 1/3 innings.

[RELATED: Bullpen upgrade is Forst's main priority]

Cishek, 33, has a career 2.69 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with 132 saves in 10 seasons. His sidearm delivery has also been especially successful against right-handed hitters, allowing them to slash just .199/.265/.288 in his career.

Cishek earned $6.5 million each of the last two seasons with the Cubs and figures to get a similar contract this offseason. He could certainly help boost the A's bullpen in 2020.