R.A. Dickey to the Braves: Yeah, it makes sense

FILE - In this May 24, 2016, file photo, then-Toronto Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey delivers against the New York Yankees during the first inning of a baseball game in New York. Former NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and the Atlanta Braves have agreed to a one-year contract, adding a 42-year-old knuckleballer to a thin rotation as the team moves into a new ballpark. Dickey’s agreement, announced Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, is subject to a successful physical. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

That would be your knuckleball grip. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

On Oscar night, ordinary civilians are assigned to fill seats when someone like George Clooney or Angelina Jolie gets up to present or receive an award. (Empty seats look bad on TV.) That’s what R.A. Dickey is to the Atlanta Braves: He has been hired to keep a seat warm until someone more gifted comes along.

In 2012, Dickey won the National League Cy Young Award. The Mets promptly traded him to Toronto, and it was a far better deal for the New Yorkers — they received Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud in return — than the Blue Jays. With Toronto, Dickey was pretty good for three seasons.

Last year he stopped being even pretty good. He worked 169 2/3 innings with an ERA of 4.46. His FIP (fielding independent pitching) was 5.03, which was sixth-worst in the majors among qualifying starters. He wasn’t included on the Blue Jays’ postseason roster for either the ALDS or the ALCS. The late-season addition of Francisco Liriano rendered him the sixth-best starting pitcher on his team.

The Braves will be happy if he’s their fifth-best starting pitcher next season. They’ve signed him as a free agent for one year, with a club option for another. He’s 42 years old and, even though he throws the minimally taxing knuckleball, he’s near the end. That’s fine. The Braves don’t need him to pitch until he’s 50. They only need him until a couple of their younger arms — Allard and Anderson, or Fried and Soroka, or Newcomb and Toussaint, or Wentz and Muller — are ready.

The biggest disappointment of last season was the regression of Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair. The Braves said they were going to sign at least two veteran starting pitchers to fill out their rotation. Julio Teheran and Mike Foltynewicz are set. Josh Collmenter, whom the Braves bought from the Cubs in mid-September, made three starts and just re-upped for next season. He’s a possibility. Dickey is a definite.

The fifth starter could be, depending on who shows the most in spring training, Wisler or Blair. If neither shows anything, the Braves will need one more starter. This week MLB Trade Rumors linked them to Jason Hammel, who was omitted from the Cubs’ postseason roster and whose option was then declined by the club. Me, I’m intrigued by the notion of Bartolo Colon, largely (but not entirely) for entertainment purposes. He is, however, a year older than Dickey.

I’d be shocked if the Braves’ arm-shopping is done. They’ve been linked to the Rays’ Chris Archer, who’s 28 and who’s signed through 2019 (with team options thereafter), but a lot of other teams want him, too. Tampa Bay tends to move slowly, and it would want you’d expect for a gifted pitcher in his prime — a basket of prospects. The Braves have said they’re reluctant to part with any of their lovingly assembled youngsters. Archer might be tantalizing enough to make them reconsider.

Back to Dickey: This is a logical move for him. He’s from Nashville; he lives there still. He gets to keep pitching and drawing a salary — earlier reports had him mulling retirement — and there’s no reason he and his knuckleball can’t do what’s being asked: To eat a bunch of innings, to give the Braves a reasonable chance to win and, most of all, to buy time for the young arms.

Further reading: The remade Braves have become a place to be.

Still further: The Cubs are champs. The Braves are on the clock.

Reader Comments 0

12 comments
Bug
Bug

this has to be a joke right?

58Supersports
58Supersports

We now have 24 pitcher on 40 man roster but only 3 are lefties ... do you see a problem?

Tmps1155
Tmps1155

"...a logical move...he's from Nashville." Huh?

TOJacket
TOJacket

I thought baseball season was over.

jimbock1
jimbock1

Seriously?  We sign a 42 year old with a 4.46 ERA and the AJC says it addresses a key need?  What we really need is for Liberty Media to open the purse strings and buy some real talent.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@jimbock1 $8 million for a #6 starter in Toronto, and this was the big move in the desert from Hart/Coppy. Either make a decision based on being competitive or tell the fans you are satisfied treading water again in 2017 until some of the great pitching prospects are finally ready . 

TideDawg
TideDawg

Bradley! If you want to do something useful, find out what they are paying Washington to coach 3rd base. If it's in the millions.....he's the Braves new manager. You don't pay that for a 3rd base coach.

TideDawg
TideDawg

I don't understand it but that's just one thing among many things I don't understand. What you can count on from a knuckleballer is: He doesn't know where the ball is going....the catcher doesn't know where the ball is going....and the hitter is standing in the box trying to hit a butterfly with a baseball bat. The Braves don't have a starting catcher. Who's going to catch RA? It's hard to believe that there was not another "normal" pitcher around that they could get for $8 million a year. This tells me that the Braves don't expect to be much better in 2017 than 2016. Outfield is probably set, Kemp, Inciarte, & Markakis( but Markakis probably will be traded this winter to make room for Smith) Freeman, Swanson, Garcia(another possible trade) Strong up the middle? Nada! No catcher, no pitching, no second baseman.

ATLFAN44
ATLFAN44

It makes since only if you're not serious about winning for another year. This FO knows it will sell nearly every game out, regardless of the quality of baseball played. If they finish with a mediocre record, they can justify firing Snitker and hire the guy they really wanted in the first place. I have respect for an ownership group and Front office that treats their fans like this.

TheManTheMythTheLegend
TheManTheMythTheLegend

I am all for him being here. I think he will give us what we need as a hold over. Not a big deal if he doesn't just a one year deal.

loulo
loulo

I wonder if Shelby Miller is available, I know he had a really bad season, But he was pretty good while in Atlanta, maybe they could find his flaws and get him on the right track again.