The Atlanta Braves had a splashy, albeit unusual day in free agency on Friday.
The Braves, who finished a National League-worst 68-93, signed R.A. Dickey to a one-year, $8 million deal and Bartolo Colon to a one-year, $12.5 million deal.
In total, the club spent $20.5 million for the two oldest starting pitchers in MLB — Dickey is 42, Colon is 43.
On the surface, it may seem like an odd move. Colon had a solid season with the Mets, but also found himself in a surprisingly high-usage situation, as the Mets’ rotation was plundered by injuries. Dickey, on the other hand, did not make the Blue Jays postseason rotation after going 10-15 with a 4.46 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. Why would the Braves commit that money to two older pitchers unlikely to push the Braves win total tremendously higher?
As ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick points out, the move suggests that in a “woeful” free agent market, the Braves have now gotten both reliable depth and “cover” for a young, promising pitching staff.
Last season, the Braves top three most-used pitchers, Julio Teheran, Matt Wisler, and Mike Foltynewicz, were all 25 years old or younger and as a team, the Braves had a 4.51 ERA, 24th in MLB.
Colon and Dickey will likely fill in behind Teheran and Foltynewicz, writes Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumours, leaving the final spot potentially open to Wisler. The two veterans add cushion around a developing rotation. Crasnick writes, “If all [Colon] does is teach Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler and Atlanta’s young pitchers the value of a well-placed heater, he’ll earn a substantial chunk of his money.”
As Crasnick and Adams also note, the moves also give the Braves flexibility for their farm system. Lefty Sean Newcomb is considered one the best prospects of 2016, according to MLB.com, while righty Chris Ellis is also considered a strong prospect. With Colon and Dickey on board, there is less pressure for the Braves to rush their prized prospects.
Dickey and Colon might not add a significant amount of wins for the Braves (though Crasnick notes, the Braves may feel they’re closer to competing than expected after winning 20 of their last 30 games). However, they add depth and needed veteran presence to a young, rebuilding team.
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