Nick Blackburn has one-and-half seasons and $8 million remaining on the contract extension the Twins misguidedly gave him in March of 2010, but today Minnesota sent the 30-year-old veteran and his 131 career starts to Triple-A.
Blackburn was never a particularly good bet to sustain long-term success because of his miniscule strikeout rate, but injuries have eliminated whatever thin margin for error he already had and basically turned him into a batting practice pitcher.
Since signing the contract extension he’s started 65 games with a 5.51 ERA and 4.2 strikeouts per nine innings while allowing opponents to hit .309 with a .500 slugging percentage.
Career minor leaguer Casey Fien has replaced Blackburn on the roster, but the Twins haven’t said yet who’ll take over his rotation spot.
Last month, free agent right-hander Bartolo Colon told reporters that he’d be open to taking a minor league deal in 2018, but only if he was guaranteed a return to the Mets’ system. The 44-year-old starter is nearing the end of a 20-year career, and it makes sense that he’d want to have one last hurrah in the city where he had some of his most productive years.
Now, Twins starter Ervin Santana tells Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, it looks like the Mets might also be open to a reunion. It’s doubtful that Colon has all that much left in the tank, especially following a combined 7-14 record and 6.48 ERA for the Braves and Twins last year, but he’s not necessarily looking to reproduce the 15+ win, sub-4.00 ERA totals of years past.
Instead, Santana says, Colon is seeking the opportunity to win just six more games. He’ll enter the 2018 season five wins shy of the all-time record for a Latin American-born player, and is hoping to claim that title for himself before he enters retirement in 2019. Former Orioles and Expos hurler Dennis Martinez currently holds the record after clinching his 245th win back in 1998. While it took Colon a full season of starts to come up with even seven wins in 2017, he’s only one year removed from a 15-win campaign in 2016. Provided that the Mets are willing to gamble on him again, the milestone may not be that far out of reach.