PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Richer offers awaited Bartolo Colon this offseason. Even at age 42, Colon could have signed a more lucrative contract than the $7.25 million deal he inked with the Mets, who didn't even guarantee him a spot in the rotation past July.
Colon hardly cared.
"Of course there were other offers, but nothing really interested me like the Mets did," he said through an interpreter. "There were higher-money offers, but that's not something that even interested me because this is my family here."
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Literally and figuratively, that statement rings true. Making his home for much of the year in New Jersey, Colon enjoyed the convenience of his commute for the past two seasons with the Mets. He also grew close to many of the younger players in the clubhouse, mentoring Jeurys Familia, Hansel Robles and others.
"It makes me so happy and fills me with so much pride that they are speaking so highly of me," Colon said. "I just always want to be there for them. I always will in my free time. When I was coming up and I was maybe their age, I didn't always have someone to look to. So I will always be there for those guys."
"He's extremely respected in the clubhouse by not just the Latin kids, but the American players and everybody else that's on this team," added manager Terry Collins. "He's a gentleman. He's a pro. Guys like being around pros."
For the Mets, however, re-signing Colon was about more than mere mentorship. The veteran's 2.08 ERA out of the bullpen last October opened their eyes to what he might be capable of in a swing role this season: starting games at least until Zack Wheeler returns from the disabled list, then potentially serving as a setup man to Familia. At age 42, with little more to prove in the 19th year of his career, Colon was on board with that plan as well.
Perhaps his only regret is that if he does spend significant time in the bullpen, Colon will have fewer opportunities at the plate.
"I have fun if I'm here, in the Dominican, wherever I am I have fun hitting," he said, laughing. "It makes me very proud, makes me so happy to know that the fans take me in like that. And not just the fans. I hear about it on the radio, whenever I'm up at bat. I know that the helmet flies off and they like to talk about it. It's pretty amusing, and I'm glad that everyone enjoys it."
Colon stopped short of setting an offensive goal for this season, as he did in 2015. But when asked specifically if he might hit .300 after batting .138 last year, Colon grinned.
"God willing," he said.