5 key moves in Braves' offseason evolution

5 key moves in Braves' offseason evolution

ATLANTA -- It can be said the Braves essentially began their offseason shopping spree July 30, when they filled their need for a power-hitting left fielder by acquiring Matt Kemp from the Padres. Approximately three weeks later, they provided a clearer glimpse of 2017 by promoting top prospect Dansby Swanson to the big league level.

With the additions of Kemp and Swanson, the Braves' offense transformed from one of the least productive units to one of the most productive. Atlanta entered August ranked last in the Majors with 3.43 runs per game, but over the remainder of the season, the offense ranked second with 5.16 runs per game.

This offensive resurgence not only helped the Braves avoid what had once seemed an inevitable 100-loss season, it also influenced the direction taken this offseason, when the team placed its focus on rotation reconstruction.

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The Braves won 20 of their final 30 games, but used nine different starting pitchers who combined for a 5.19 ERA. Just five starts (three by Julio Teheran and two by Josh Collmenter) lasted seven innings or more during that stretch, while 10 of them were fewer than five innings.

Atlanta had already discussed the possibility of tinkering with its rotation during the offseason. The offense's success during the season's final month gave general manager John Coppolella and his staff motivation to aggressively shop the starting-pitching market with the mindset that the team has potential to make some noise in 2017.

This look at five key additions provides a glimpse of how the offseason evolved:

Nov. 10 -- As the early hours of free agency elapsed and the General Managers Meetings concluded in Phoenix, R.A. Dickey agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract. This seemed a good marriage between a team seeking an innings-eater and a 42-year-old pitcher who wanted the chance to pitch near his family's Nashville, Tenn., home, and for the team he followed throughout his childhood. Dickey completed at least 200 innings during five consecutive seasons before producing a 4.46 ERA over 29 starts with the Blue Jays last year.

Nov. 11 -- Approximately 24 hours after landing Dickey, the Braves secured Bartolo Colon with a one-year, $12.5 million deal. So within the first week of free agency, the Braves nabbed their top two offseason targets and built the short-term bridge toward their next wave of starting pitching prospects. The 43-year-old Colon posted a 3.43 ERA over 33 starts for the Mets last year and has logged at least 190 innings each of the past four seasons. He is expected to provide stability within the rotation and the same direction he did while endearing himself to Noah Syndergaard and the Mets' other young starters during the past three seasons.

Nov. 24 -- The Braves found good fortune when Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips used his trade veto rights to block a trade to his hometown of Atlanta. Even if this deal had materialized, there was a chance Atlanta still would have provided Sean Rodriguez the two-year, $11.5 million deal he agreed to on Thanksgiving. Without having to accommodate Phillips, the Braves can simply utilize Rodriguez as a primary second baseman and benefit from his ability to play each of the infield and outfield positions.

Dec. 1 --  The Braves began cleaning excess from their 40-man roster when they traded John Gant, Chris Ellis and Luke Dykstra to the Cardinals in exchange for left-handed starter Jaime Garcia, whose career has been plagued by injuries. Garcia is eligible for free agency following the 2017 season. When healthy, he has the potential to be the effective southpaw Atlanta's rotation needs. Given his health history, he also has the potential to be flipped during the season to create a rotation spot for Aaron Blair, Matt Wisler or another of the rising prospects.

Jan. 21 -- The Braves never had much interest in providing free agent Matt Wieters anything more than a bargain basement offer and for a while they toyed with the idea of using Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker as their catchers. But while they might have been comfortable using Recker as a backup, they weren't comfortable with the reality he would become their starting catcher if Flowers was sidelined. Thus, they provided a one-year, $1.5 million deal to Kurt Suzuki, who has made 1,102 starts as a big league catcher.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.