The Braves made two moves this week in acquiring two former Cy Young Award-winning pitchers that age notwithstanding would have been big moves.
One, Bartolo Colon, will turn 44 next season and won that Cy Young in 2005. The other, knuckleballer R.A Dickey won his Cy Young in 2012 and will be pitching as a 42-year-old next season. Is that the plan for a team that is rebuilding and planning to contend?
However, the Braves struggled last season with ineffective starting pitching. Sixteen pitchers started games for the Braves, with only three pitchers even making it over 100 innings pitched. Colon and Dickey bring veteran experience, ability to throw a lot of innings, and playoff experience.
Meanwhile, the last time R.A. Dickey didn’t pitch at least 150 innings was 2009. As a knuckleballer, even though he will have some bad outings and give up runs, he will give you innings.
With Bartolo Colon, he would have LED the Braves in innings pitched last season and he wasn’t in the Mets rotation when the season started until injuries led him there. Not to mention he hit his first career home run, so the Braves might be able to tap into that power this season. Or if nothing else we get to see some of his awkward at-bats of comedy gold.
I am also a big fan of having some veteran pitchers around to be mentors. The Braves have a plethora of young pitchers coming up through the system, and they will be giving them two mentors to learn from. It could get interesting if one (more likely to be Colon) ends up getting bumped to a long relief bullpen role in order to give those young pitchers more exposure, but that would be a good problem to have for the Braves.
I still love the promise of Matt Wisler who was wildly inconsistent this year for the Braves. One game he is nearly throwing a no-hitter, the next he is getting rocked for 7 runs in 3 innings. I believe though that his development could be key in if the Braves contend in 2017 – or wait until 2018.
So, the Braves got two veterans for the cheap on one-year deals, which is a pretty good start to the off-season. Now they can focus on how else to upgrade their offense, especially at catcher and second base in particular.
Another factor is that Bartolo Colon knows about playoff teams. He was in the World Series in 2015 with the Mets and made a lot of playoff starts in his career. He has been in the playoffs 6 times and remarkably that 2015 World Series was the first of his (at that time) 18-year career. If he is done after this year – can the Braves get him there one more time?
Interestingly enough Dickey has only made two playoff starts: one went well, one went dreadfully.
Sometimes the best moves in the off-season aren’t the flashy trades, free agent signings, or internal promotions. Sometimes, the moves that make the teams 90 win teams over 70 win teams are made quietly, in November, by signing two 40+-year-old pitchers.