Many have been expecting the Atlanta Braves to be quite active during the 2016/17 MLB offseason, and they’ve gotten things underway in a hurry by signing right-handed starter R.A. Dickey to a one-year, $8 million deal, the team announced. They backed that up 24 hours later by luring Bartolo Colon away from the New York Mets on a one-year, $12.5 million deal, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and others.
Interestingly Dickey and Colon were the oldest players in the American and National Leagues respectively last year.
Dickey, 42, returns to the National League East for the first time since 2012 where he enjoyed a lot of success with the New York Mets. During his three-year tenure in Queens, Dickey held a 2.95 ERA as he pitched to a 39-28 record in 94 appearances. He won the NL Cy Young in 2012, going 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA across 33 starts during the campaign. He led the league with 232.2 innings pitched and 230 strikeouts, with his 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings rate the best of his career.
He comes to Atlanta off a four-year tenure with the Toronto Blue Jays where he served mostly as a back of the rotation starter. Between 2013 and 2016, Dickey had a 4.05 ERA but averaged 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings with 2.9 walks per nine and 8.3 hits per nine across a total of 824.1 innings. All those rates are either at or slightly better than his career average, but Atlanta will be impressed mostly with his durability.
The knuckleballer may no longer be quite as effective as he was a few years ago, but he gives the Braves someone capable of eating a ton of innings having thrown more than 200 each year between 2011 and 2015. By using his knuckleball, Dickey still has the potential to give opposing hitters plenty of problems.
Meanwhile the 43-year-old Colon is another who can eat a ton of innings, hurling a minimum of 190 each of the last four seasons. In 2016 he went 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA across 33 starts. He led the league with an average of 1.5 walks per nine innings, while also striking out 280. Opponents hit .268 against Colon last year, just a little worse than his career mark of .264.
2016 was the fourth time in his career that Colon was awarded with an All-Star nomination, 18 years after making his first appearance at an All-Star game in 1997. After struggling for game time and from between 2006 and 2012, Colon has come alive in the last four years as he has a 3.59 ERA in 125 starts between Oakland and the Mets. He’s gone 62-40 in that span which includes four shut outs.
Bartolo Colon’s first home run of his career
Colon was a real fan favourite with the Mets and last year hit the first home run of his 19 year career. FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweeted that New York were “disappointed” to see Colon go, though it’s likely they weren’t willing to offer up quite as much as the Braves anyway.
With Atlanta moving into their new SunTrust Park for the 2017 season, they’ve wanted to combine the talented young players they have with a few savvy veterans. Dickey and Colon are the first of those, and now they can potentially look towards adding another power bat in the middle of their lineup, as well as a few solid relievers.
Atlanta now looks fairly set in their rotation next year, with Julio Teheran the likely opening day starter before being followed by Dickey, Colon and young righty Mike Foltynewicz. The final spot will be filled by one of Matt Wisler or Aaron Blair, though Williams Perez and Josh Collmenter also figure to get an opportunity to prove themselves in the spring.
Given the Braves have about $77.5 million tied up on next year’s contracts thus far (including Dickey & Colon), it’s likely they could still add a number of significant free agents on short-term deals. A guy like Wilson Ramos can probably be had on a two or three-year contract if the dollar amount is high enough, while Matt Wieters is another who Atlanta may turn to behind the plate.
The Braves are also reported to be interested in adding veteran infielder Justin Turner, as well as former Cub Travis Wood. Turner would be a great addition to a lineup that hit the fewest home runs (122) in the majors during the regular season, failing to blast one out of the yard for a 15-game stretch between April 10th and 28th.
Corner outfielders Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis typically hit fourth behind first baseman Freddie Freeman, though the Braves could probably use those guys hitting down the order to give them some length. Adonis Garcia started 123 games at the hot corner in Atlanta this year, but with his ability to play left field the 32-year-old might be better served as a right-handed swinger off the bench.