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Atlanta Braves prioritizing pitching in offseason’s first week

The Atlanta Braves are the talk for Major League Baseball’s offseason thus far after spending more than $20M to stabilize its unreliable rotation by signing two former Cy Young Award winners.

On Thursday, Nov. 10, the Braves signed 42-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to one-year $8M deal with an option for 2018, and followed that up by signing 43-year-old Bartolo Colon to a one-year $12.5M pact on Friday.

By the end of Veteran’s Day, the Braves had secured the two oldest veterans on the starting pitching free agent market in order to bridge the gap until some of the organization’s highly-touted arms are ready to consistently contribute at the big league level.

The starting rotation was the Braves’ weak link in 2016, a season which saw the club start out horribly, make a managerial change, and then went 31-25 after Aug. 1, and going 50-47 over its final 97 games.

Now, new full-time skipper Brian Snitker will have the luxury of two season veterans joining a rotation that received quality years from Julio Teheran and Mike Foltynewicz, but not much else from the 3-5 spots.

After winning the National League Cy Young with the Mets in 2012, Dickey was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, where he went 39-37 with a 3.95 ERA from 2013-2015 before regressing to a 10-15 with a 4.46 ERA in 2016. Dickey also became highly susceptible to the home run ball pitching at Rogers Centre.

Colon on the other hand, had an All-star season for the Mets in 2016, going 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA in 191.2 IP.

Both pitchers eclipsed the 190 IP mark, which will be a welcomed addition the Braves rotation, considering Teheran lead the team with 188 IP in 2016, and only one other pitcher broke the 150 IP mark (Matt Wisler 156.2).

Having Teheran, Colon, Foltynewicz, and Dickey slated in the 1-4 slots in the rotation will create quite the competition during spring training between the likes of Josh Collmenter, Matt Wisler, Aaron Blair, Williams Perez, Tyrell Jenkins, and youngsters Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis.

Collmenter was the club’s first signing of the offseason as the two sides agreed to a new one-year deal avoiding salary arbitration. The former Arizona Diamondback went 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA in three late season starts for the Braves in 2016.

The club also signed hard-throwing veteran reliever Jordan Walden to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. The 27-year-old Walden was previously with the Braves in 2013 and 2014, where he pitched to a 3.15 ERA over 97 IP with 116K.

Walden’s stock is down a little after two injury-filled seasons in St. Louis, but the club has a history of resurrecting the careers of pitchers acquired off the scrap heap.

Following the Braves addition of Matt Kemp from the Padres near the trade deadline last year, the team’s offense really began to gel, which lead to the improved record down the stretch.

Now the team’s President of baseball operations John Hart, and general manager John Coppollela have prioritized “innings-eating” starters to help balance the rotation and take the heat off the club’s young bullpen arms.

With the offseason off to a fast start, the organization could look to sign another starter, as well as a left-handed hitting catcher to tandem with Tyler Flowers.