ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves have acted quickly to address their rotational needs. After signing R.A. Dickey just last week, the team officially announced the signing of veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon on Thursday. While financial terms were not disclosed, Colon, 43, received a one-year deal worth $12.5 million according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
In Colon, the Braves add another capable veteran who has been nothing if not dependable, despite his age. Colon was a National League All-Star in 2016 for the New York Mets and finished 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA in 191.2 innings, walking just 32 while striking out 128.
Those quality innings were in short supply for Atlanta last season. Julio Teheran’s 188 IP led the staff, with Matt Wisler (156.2 IP) the only other pitcher to top 150 innings in 2016. With Colon and Dickey on board, the Braves have added a pair of pitchers with proven track records when it comes to going to the post. The duo should be able to comfortably provide somewhere between 350-375 innings next season if all goes according to plan.
Durability has been Colon’s calling card. He has averaged 195 innings per season since 2013 – all after turning 40. His success is also built on pinpoint control, which allowed him to lead to the NL in fewest walks per nine innings pitched (1.5) for the second consecutive year in 2016. Colon also throws the highest percentage of fastballs of any starter in the game, proving that sheer velocity can take a backseat to movement and pitch execution.
Colon was mulling a return to the Mets, where he’d spent the last three seasons, but with no assurance of a spot in their already-crowded rotation, Atlanta was able to offer an excellent alternative to the big right-hander. Atlanta had interest in Colon in 2014 as well. The $12.5 million salary for 2017 represents a raise of more than $5 million over the one-year, $7.25 million deal he signed with the Mets last December.
Colon has amassed 233 career victories, trailing only Hall of Famer Juan Marichal (243) among pitchers from the Dominican Republic. He began his career with the Indians in 1997, then run by current Atlanta President of Baseball Operations, John Hart. Colon spent his first five years in Cleveland before being traded to Montreal in 2002, the first of his two 20-win seasons. He has since pitched for the White Sox, Angels, Red Sox, Yankees, Athletics and Mets, winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2005 with Los Angeles.
Much like the signing of Dickey on Thursday, the Braves were able to add a capable veteran to the rotation for 2017, while not blocking the path of numerous prospects in the pipeline. With the free-agent market thin on top-tier options, Atlanta was hesitant to get caught in a bidding war for pitchers looking for more years and higher guarantees. The Braves have committed a total of $20.5 million to Colon and Dickey, with nothing guaranteed on the books past 2017.
These signings do not preclude Atlanta from monitoring the trade market for a higher end starting pitcher that may become available. The Braves certainly have the prospect cache to get a deal done, but will maintain a cautious approach when it comes to dealing from the talent they’ve been stockpiling over the last two seasons.