Nearly 25 years after being in the Dominican Republic to see a young right-hander named Bartolo Colon sign his first professional contract with the Indians, Braves president of baseball operations John Hart is looking forward to reuniting with Colon, one of the latest additions to a new-look Atlanta rotation that will certainly look a little older.
Although Colon's one-year, $12.5 million deal was confirmed by multiple sources last week, the Braves did not officially announce the deal until Thursday, once the results of the 43-year-old pitcher's physical were reviewed.
"We're catching him late, but he's driven and he's always been a winner," said Hart, who served as Cleveland's general manager while Colon was with the Indians. "He wants that record, and he wants to pitch. He's a guy that makes your club better in a number of ways. This is a deal that made a lot of sense for us. If you're a young pitcher hanging around Spring Training and you don't pay attention to the way he goes about his business, you're making a big mistake."
Over the course of the past week, the Braves altered their rotation's makeup with the additions of Colon and R.A. Dickey, a 42-year-old knuckleballer whose one-year, $8 million deal will become official once he completes his physical this week.
Now Braves fans will anxiously wait to see if the rotation is altered more with the addition of White Sox left-hander Chris Sale, Rays right-hander Chris Archer or A's right-hander Sonny Gray -- three controllable top-flight starting pitchers who might be available via a trade.
"If something presents itself and makes sense, we'll go for it," said Hart, who has spent the past two years working with general manager John Coppolella to complete a massive rebuilding project.
An argument can be made that now is the time for the Braves to provide as many opportunities as possible to Blair, Wisler and some of their other young pitchers on the verge of being Major League-ready. But as they prepare to move into SunTrust Park with the optimism created by this past season's strong finish, they have chosen to add Colon and Dickey, a pair of proven innings-eaters who will serve as short-term bridges toward the club's future.
Colon has a 3.94 ERA over 500 starts during a career that dates back to April 4, 1997, which was the same day Turner Field officially opened. The veteran hurler won the 2005 American League Cy Young Award and then battled back from a potentially career-ending shoulder injury to begin resurrecting his career in '11. He posted a 3.90 ERA while making 95 starts for the Mets over the past three seasons.
Initially, there was reason to believe Colon would rather stay near his New Jersey home and continue pitching for the Mets. But the Braves had a few advantages, including the long-standing relationship with Hart.
In addition, the depth of the Mets' rotation did not provide Colon the level of certainty that he will have in Atlanta to realize his goal of notching the 11 wins necessary to match Juan Marichal's record for most wins by a Dominican-born pitcher.
"He's known me for a long time," Hart said. "But when he made his decision, I think he also looked at what we are doing. We have good young kids and good veterans. He likes our club and wanted to be a part of what we're doing."