Bartolo Colon was a 20-year-old kid in 1994, already a promising prospect but too young and raw to help a Cleveland Indians team that was ready to win.

A general manager named John Hart signed a soon-to-be 40-year-old pitcher named Dennis Martinez. A year later, with Martinez and 36-year-old Orel Hershiser in the rotation, the Indians were playing the Atlanta Braves in the World Series.

Maybe you’ve forgotten, but it seems John Hart hasn’t.

He’s the president of baseball operations for the Braves now, with a bunch of promising young pitching prospects not yet ready to support a rapidly improving lineup. And just as he signed Martinez, Jack Morris and Hershiser two decades ago in Cleveland, his Braves have signed 42-year-old R.A. Dickey and the now-43-year-old Colon the last two days.

Colon agreed to terms on a one-year, $12.5 million contract Friday, as first reported by Mark Bowman of While he and Dickey may not be joining a Braves team ready to return to the World Series, they should push the Braves another step towards respectability—and maybe even towards contention.

“It’s a pretty good lineup we’re running out there,” manager Brian Snitker said during a three-game sweep in New York in September. “When we pitch, we win. We’re a pretty good team when we pitch.”

The Braves aren’t the Indians of the mid-’90s, but they led the major leagues in runs scored for the final month of the season. They have an established star in Freddie Freeman and a star on the rise in shortstop Dansby Swanson.

The rebuilding program begun by Hart and general manager John Coppolella looks promising, much more than it did a year ago at this time. The Braves move into their new ballpark in April, and even if it turns out they’re not ready to compete with the Mets and Washington Nationals at the top of the National League East, they should at least be fun to watch.

Colon, of course, became one of the game’s best characters during his three seasons with the Mets. He pitched, fielded and even hit, with a memorable home run last May in San Diego.

The Braves would settle for seeing him make the 33 starts and pitch the 191.2 innings he did for the Mets in 2016. They’d hope for close to the same from Dickey, who won a Cy Young Award with the Mets in 2012 and spent the last four seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays.

As Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted, Dickey’s 195 starts over the last six years are tied for the sixth-most in the major leagues, while Colon’s 175 starts over that span rank 19th.

Another Sherman tweet:

He’s right. The Braves aren’t done. They could still improve a rotation that for now includes ace Julio Teheran, Colon, Dickey and Mike Foltynewicz, with one spot open. They could still improve their lineup, possibly with a trade to bring back catcher Brian McCann from the New York Yankees.

And they still figure to be significantly better in 2018 and beyond, with Swanson set to be joined by Ozzie Albies in the middle of the infield and with young pitching on the way.

Five of the six Braves who made 10 or more starts in 2016 are 25 or younger. Eight of the top 12 Braves minor league prospects, as ranked by, are pitchers.

The issue Hart and Coppolella faced was too many of those guys who started games this past year weren’t ready, and too many of those top prospects aren’t yet ready to advance.

“We’re looking for guys to suck up innings so that we don’t have to kill our bullpen,” Coppolella told reporters, including‘s Bowman, when he announced the Dickey signing. “We’ve been real transparent about what it is we want to do: add guys that can eat innings on short-term deals.”

Short-term deals were important, because the Braves believe some of those prospects will be ready to contribute soon. Eating innings was important, because the Braves had 42 games in 2016 where their starter didn’t finish the fifth.

Realistically, Colon and Dickey are place-holders, two aging pitchers who make the Braves more presentable while a young team gets better around them.

But who knows? Maybe what the Braves hitters did in September was a sign of what they can do next summer. Maybe the two old former Cy Young winners can do something like those former Cy Young winners Hart signed all those years ago in Cleveland.

In 1995, the year he turned 41, Martinez won 12 games with a 3.08 ERA. He went on to pitch until he was 44, retiring after a final season with the Braves. He finished with 245 wins, the most by a pitcher born in Latin America.

Colon, born in the Dominican Republic, has 233 wins. He ranks third for now, behind Martinez (born in Nicaragua) and Juan Marichal (born in the Dominican), who has 243.

If he stays healthy, the Braves can give him enough starts and probably enough runs to chase the record. He and Dickey can give their rebuilding program a boost.

John Hart has seen it happen before.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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