Even after Bartolo Colon signed a one-year deal for $12.5 million with the Braves during the offseason, it was easy to envision a scenario in which the 44-year-old Flushing folk hero might be back in Queens filling out a Mets uniform.
On Thursday, sources said the Mets took the first step in a seemingly inevitable reunion, reaching out to Colon’s agent. The sides are scheduled to speak again Friday.
Other teams reportedly also have been in touch, though the Mets present the most familiar option. Colon spent three seasons with the Mets and still owns a home in Clifton, New Jersey.
Of course, the context of the potential homecoming isn’t as expected. Instead of flipping Colon in a trade to a contender, the Braves designated him for assignment after a disappointing season in which he went 2-8 with an 8.14 ERA in 13 starts.
If Colon indeed rejoins the Mets, he will return to a team in a far different place than he left it. The Mets have faltered beneath the weight of their lofty expectations this season, undone by injuries to their vaunted pitching staff.
What had been a strength has morphed into a weakness. A wealth of arms is part of the reason that the Mets said goodbye to Colon, whose colorful antics and soft physique made him a fan favorite.
Had the season gone according to plan for the Mets, Colon might have been a useful luxury, a steady arm who could be used out of the bullpen or as a rotation fill-in. Instead, on a pitching staff ravaged by injuries, Colon represents little more than a familiar flier.
As expected, Colon cleared waivers Thursday when no other team was willing to claim him and take on the $6 million remaining on his deal this season. The one-time Cy Young Award winner now is a free agent looking for a chance to continue what has been a remarkable career.
With 235 career victories, Colon is eight short of reaching Giants great Juan Marichal for the most ever by a pitcher born in the Dominican Republic.
The Mets would be taking a minimal risk by bringing back Colon. He likely wouldn’t cost much more than the prorated league minimum and a spot on the roster.
Within the organization, Colon is regarded as a veteran presence and a versatile arm. The righthander primarily started for the Mets, though they also could use a solid long reliever to take some pressure off a beleaguered bullpen.
Colon enjoyed success with the Mets from 2014 to 2016, going 44-34 with a 3.90 ERA. The strike-thrower logged 588 2⁄3 innings, mostly free from the kind of physical maladies that have knocked the Mets’ pitching staff off track.
Colon’s tenure with the Mets included a selection to the 2016 All-Star Game and the first homer in his 20-year career.
Conforto rehabs. All-Star outfielder Michael Conforto began a minor-league rehab assignment with Class A St. Lucie on Thursday and went 3-for-4 with two singles, one double, one run scored and one RBI. He played nine innings in centerfield.
Conforto is eligible to come off the disabled list Saturday. He has been sidelined with a badly bruised left hand.