LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Instead of accepting the assumption that Bartolo Colon would eventually re-sign with the Mets, Braves president of baseball operations, John Hart, successfully lured his old friend south with 12.5 million reasons why it would make more sense for him to bring his record chase to Atlanta.
"Yeah, I definitely had the idea that I was probably going to stay with the Mets at the end of the season," Colon said. "My family is up there, but it's a business and I had to do what was right for me and my family."
With the one-year, $12.5 million contract the Braves provided during the first week of the free-agent season, Colon gained the persuasion he needed to leave behind the comfort he had felt over the past three seasons while playing for the Mets and residing nearby in his family's New Jersey home.
As Colon produced a 3.92 ERA over the 95 starts made since the start of the 2014 season, he endeared himself to Mets fans and teammates who came to recognize him as "Big Sexy." His 5-foot-11, 280-pound plus frame made him relatable to the fans and his easy-going personality made him a beloved teammate to Noah Syndergaard and New York's other young starters who benefited from the knowledge gained by a man who has two decades worth of experience as a Major League starter.
But as much as Colon might have been loved in New York, he was not necessarily needed or guaranteed a spot within their talent-laden rotation. Thus, as the 43-year-old right-hander stands just 12 wins away from Dennis Martinez's record for most wins by a Latin American pitcher, it did make sense for him to join the Braves, who are hoping Big Bart makes at least 30 starts for them this year.
"I'm very happy to be with the Braves," Colon said through an interpreter. "[Martinez's record] is really important to me, but my primary focus is to stay healthy and then we'll see where it goes from there."
There's no doubt Colon's decision was motivated by both the kind of financial offer a 43-year-old pitcher is not expected to receive and the two decades-plus relationship he's shared with Hart dating back to their days together in Cleveland. But the veteran pitcher says he was also persuaded by the significant improvements the Braves made late last year, as they began distancing themselves from the painful portion of a massive rebuilding effort.
"I definitely noticed a change with the team," Colon said. "The last couple months [of the season] it was a real challenge facing the Braves. The first four months were different, but the last two months they changed and we want to keep going in that direction."
Acquired to eat quality innings and serve as a short-term bridge toward the club's next wave of starting pitching prospects, Colon might end up sticking with the Braves for just one season.
But three months shy of his 44th birthday and less than two months away from entering his 20th big league season, Colon wants to stick with what he once told his late mother, when he expressed a desire to continue pitching until he's 45 years old.
"He obviously knows how to get in shape to log all the innings he has over the years," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "There's guys in the Major Leagues that don't know Major League Baseball without him. Somebody who has been around that long and doing it like he has, obviously knows how to prepare."
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.