The Braves declined an $8 million option on knuckleballer R.A. Dickey’s contract for 2018, which means he’ll get a $500,000 buyout whether he retires or not.
The former Cy Young Award winner, who turns 43 next week, is expected to retire but hasn’t made any announcement yet. He was 10-10 with a 4.26 ERA in a team-high 190 innings in his only season for the Braves, and has a 120-118 career record and 4.04 ERA in 400 games including 300 starts.
Dickey’s last start for the Braves was a solid road outing Sept. 26 against the Mets, the team for which he won the 2012 Cy Young Award when he went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA and led the National League with 230 strikeouts in 233-2/3 innings, far and away the best season of his career.
The Nashville native and father of four young children had talked after the last start against the Mets of it being a good way to end his career, if that was indeed his final outing. And when he declined to take his last scheduled turn on the final day of the season in Miami, it was viewed by many as another sign that he intended to retire.
The team had until the week after the World Series to decide whether to pick up the option on Dickey’s contract, but their feeling was that he was going to retire. Dickey signed a one-year, $8 million contract at the beginning of free agency last November, which included a $7.5 million salary for 2017.
The Braves seem likely add at least one veteran starter via trade or free agency. They have former two-time All-Star Julio Teheran under contract in 2018 along with hard-throwing Mike Foltynewicz, coming off an inconsistent season, and they have a handful of promising rookies and prospects who could compete for the final spots in the rotation led by left-handers Luiz Gohara, Sean Newcomb and Max Fried, who all made their debuts in 2017, along with right-hander Lucas Sims.
Newcomb was in the rotation for more than half of the season, but September call-up Gohara was arguably the most impressive of the group and curveball-slinging Fried showed flashes of big potential and is currently off a strong start in the Arizona Fall League.