As the season continues to dwindle away for the New York Mets, and the focus begins to shift to preparations for next year, it is no secret that the likelihood of Bartolo Colon’s premature departure increased Thursday night, as the postseason-hopeful Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim lost their ace, Garrett Richards for the year after a freak play saw him tear a muscle in his knee.

The current leaders in the AL West have fought off the Oakland Athletics thus far; even with the arrivals of Jeff Samardjiza and Jon Lester to their rotation and the surprising Seattle Mariners; led as always by King Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakamura, but the loss of Richards in the midst of the best season here career, mere weeks after losing the young Tyler Skaggs to Tommy John surgery, puts the spotlight squarely on a rotation that was already fighting an uphill battle. Jered Weaver is having a decent comeback season, CJ Wilson has been hurt at times, and the inexperienced Hector Santiago and Matt Shoemaker will be counted on to pitch the most meaningful ball of their careers over the next month and a half. Before the deadline, the Angels made a plethora of trades to reinforce their bullpen, but with Richards injury that work could be rendered meaningless, unless the team revisits the activity to fill the void in order to keep pace with their competitors, leading to rampant speculation that a trade for Colon, a former Angel, could be evident.

colonEarlier in the season, Los Angeles was thought to have interest in Dillon Gee, but nothing transpired. However, given the wealth of young starting pitching options the Mets have in Gee, Jon Niese, Zach Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, and the recovering Matt Harvey, Colon could clearly be considered the odd man out for the right return. He is owed $11 million next season when the options around him will be far less expensive and vital to the team’s future, and even with the dramatic number of young pitchers who have succumbed to Tommy John surgery over the last two years, the depth he provides could be expendable if he is able to help the Mets fix their long-documented offensive problems. At his age, it is difficult to believe Colon will generate the impact bat the team needs, but with trade of Marlon Byrd for reliever Vic Black and hot-shot prospect Dilson Herrera last season still looking like a shrewd move for general manager Sandy Alderson, and the Angels sudden dire need for a replacement, one has to wonder if lightning is close to striking twice.

So what is stopping this from happening? Besides Colon needing to pass through waivers unclaimed before the Angels can get to him and work out a trade, is the fact that the Angels have one of the weaker farm systems in the game, with virtually no impact prospects on the precipice of the major leagues. The majority of their current top prospects were just drafted in June, and as a result can’t be traded for almost a full year, as 30% of their top 10 prospects from the beginning of the season were traded to the San Diego Padres for Huston Street. The only way a trade for the Mets could work to their advantage is if they were able to acquire 26-year-old right fielder Kole Calhoun, the team’s current leadoff hitter, in his first full season in the majors who is hitting .293 with a .350 on-base percentage, 13 home runs, 42 RBIs, and 64 runs scored on the season, and possibly a younger prospect.

For the Angels, they do have the less reliable Tony Campana, Brennan Bosch and JB Shuck to fill the void in right, and with Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, and Albert Pujols still in the lineup, the impact to the team’s offense would be minimal. Given the fact that Calhoun is older than most in their first full season, it’s possible he isn’t so engrained in their future plans that he can’t be replaced. And if they are truly in “win now” mode, the need for the rotation help could outweigh Calhoun’s value to the offense in the same way Oakland decided Jon Lester was more important to his team than his cleanup hitter, Yeonis Cespedes.

kcFor the Mets, Calhoun is not the power hitter or cleanup hitter fans have long clamored for, but other than Giancarlo Stanton, there probably isn’t going to be a player like that available through a trade or free agency anytime soon, unless the team wants to take a chance on a Carlos Gonzalez or Matt Kemp. At 26 though, Calhoun still has room for improvement, and hasn’t committed an error all season playing right field, though he has played left in the past. This would also actually allow the Mets to get more creative with their lineup over the last month of the season as he auditions for next year. With Calhoun in the leadoff spot, Curtis Granderson or Juan Lagares could bat second, moving Dan Murphy (arguably the team’s best hitter this season) into the three hole, moving the struggling David Wright into the fifth spot after Lucas Duda, or even the sixth spot if Terry Collins wants to bat Granderson fifth (which seems unlikely that he would bat three lefties in a row), which would push Travis d’Arnaud down in the order. A lineup of Calhoun, Lagares, Murphy, Duda, Wright, Granderson, d’Arnaud, and Wilmer Flores looks much more potent than the Mets current lineup, at least on paper.

This looks to be the best option the Mets have on the table for Bartolo Colon this season, as the other playoff contenders appear to have their rotations set, or at least don’t see a pressing need for an upgrade. Unless the Mets feel they can get a more substantial return in the offseason, Colon could be in his last days in a Met uniform.

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