The Atlanta Braves spent a large chunk of the 2016 offseason trying to stabilize that starting rotation with a trio of veteran additions. We already touched on how well R.A. Dickey’s season went but the rest of the newcomers was a bit of a mixed bag. We will start with the good and Jaime Garcia.
Atlanta acquired Garcia from the St. Louis Cardinals on December 1 in exchange for infielder Luke Dykstra and pitchers Chris Ellis and John Gant. Garcia was coming off a relatively healthy 2016 campaign after battling through injuries for three straight seasons.
Garcia ended up making 18 starts for the Braves and finished with a 4.30 ERA to go along with a 4.15 FIP and 4.22 xFIP. He was worth 1.5 fWAR during his stint with the Braves while throwing 113 innings.
Jaime Garcia 2017 Projections/Stats
|Jaime Garcia (ZiPs)||8||8||4.03||23||127.3||7.99||2.62||4.10||1.4|
|Jaime Garcia (Steamer)||8||8||3.60||23||130.0||7.94||2.77||3.56||2.2|
|Jamie Garcia (Atlanta)||4||7||4.30||18||113.0||6.77||3.27||4.15||1.5|
|Jamie Garcia (Minnesota)||1||0||4.05||1||6.2||9.45||4.05||2.41||0.2|
|Jamie Garcia (N.Y. Yankees)||0||3||4.82||8||37.1||8.92||4.82||4.87||0.4|
|Jamie Garcia (Total)||5||10||4.41||27||157.0||7.39||3.67||4.25||2.1|
Garcia was able to duplicate much of what we have seen from him throughout his career. He struggled with his strikeout and walk rates early in the season, but eventually turned a corner and emerged as a stable option for the rotation. He seemed to hit a wall in mid-June when he allowed 23 runs over four starts but recovered and allowed four runs over his next 14 innings while picking up wins over the Diamondbacks and Dodgers to revive his trade value.
Atlanta dealt Garcia and catcher Anthony Recker to the Twins on July 24 in exchange for minor league pitcher Huascar Ynoa. Garcia would make just one start with the Twins before they moved him onto the Yankees. Garcia finished out the year pretty much in the same way that he had pitched with the Braves, after adjusting for park and league: he was on around a 2.7 fWAR/200 pace before he was traded, and that was essentially where he ended up. He did, however, manage to complete over 150 innings, making it just the second time in six seasons he was able to meet that threshold.
While the additions of Dickey and Garcia can be viewed as positives for Atlanta, the signing of Bartolo Colon was a disaster from pretty much the beginning. After his first start in a Braves uniform saw him give up just one run in six innings to the Mets, Colon got lit up for six runs in four innings by the Marlins, and then allowed 23 runs in four starts between late April and early May. Colon posted an 8.14 ERA in 13 starts for Atlanta. Although his 5.09 FIP and 5.00 xFIP suggests that there was some bad luck involved, he certainly wasn’t good, allowing 92 hits and 57 runs in just 63 innings. To illustrate further, Colon allowed five runs or more in 7 of his 13 starts in a Braves uniform.
Colon was so bad that he was designated for assignment on June 29 and subsequently released, leaving the Braves on the hook for all of his $12 million salary. Colon later signed a minor league deal with the Twins and made his way back to the majors. He ended up starting 15 games for a Minnesota who would go on to earn the second American League Wild Card. Colon wasn’t necessarily good with the Twins but he set the bar so low in Atlanta that some improvement was inevitable. Notably, he was actually even worse with the Twins than with the Braves, but his ERA in Minnesota was much more in line with his peripherals.
Bartolo Colon 2017 Projections/Stats
|Bartolo Colon (ZiPs)||10||11||4.20||26||156.3||6.16||1.55||4.10||1.9|
|Bartolo Colon (Steamer)||9||11||4.21||28||164.0||6.24||1.59||4.07||2.1|
|Bartolo Colon (Atlanta)||2||8||8.14||13||63.0||6.00||2.86||5.09||0.3|
|Bartolo Colon (Minnesota)||5||6||5.18||15||80.0||5.29||1.69||5.31||0.3|
|Bartolo Colon (Combined||7||14||6.48||28||143.0||5.60||2.20||5.21||0.6|
In retrospect, the Colon signing couldn’t have gone much worse for Atlanta, but that evidences the risk inherent in signing a 43-year old pitcher. No one probably saw Colon imploding to the degree that he did, but at the same time not many predicted Dickey to be as good as he was either. Garcia falls somewhere in the middle and looking back on it now, maybe the Braves shouldn’t have expected much better.