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Braves strike deal with Dickey, offseason moves begin

By Larry Fine

By Larry Fine

(Reuters) - The Atlanta Braves agreed to a one-year deal with former Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey on Thursday in a move foreshadowing what could be a lively offseason of wheeling and dealing in Major League Baseball.

From the newly-crowned champion Chicago Cubs, facing the possible loss of free agents, to teams pondering a rebuilding effort, MLB's 30 clubs will be jockeying for talent as they head to the Dec. 5-8 Winter Meetings in Maryland.

The Braves, looking to improve their starting pitching, took a chance on a rebound by 42-year-old knuckleballer Dickey, who went 10-15 with a 4.46 ERA last season for Toronto. From 2010 to 2015 he compiled a cumulative ERA of 3.46 ERA.

Bigger possible losses looming for Toronto were their pair of free agent sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

The high-flying Cubs, over the moon since landing their first World Series title in 108 years last week, figure to have some re-tooling to do.

Fireballing closer Aroldis Chapman, a key championship contributer, is expected to price himself out of Chicago's payroll structure and centerfielder Dexter Fowler is also testing the free agent waters.

The American League champion Cleveland Indians are expected to try and retain power-hitting first baseman Mike Napoli, but that may hinge on whether he finds a lucrative long-term free agent deal.

Power hitters and closers are abundant in the free agent pool.

Other potent power hitters shopping for offers include Yoenis Cespedes of the New York Mets, Matt Holliday (St. Louis) and MLB home run leader Mark Trumbo (Baltimore).

Besides Chapman, top flight closers Kenley Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Mark Melancon of the Washington Nationals are up for grabs.

Starting pitching, however, is very thin.

The most appealing targets include Jeremy Hellickson of the Philadelphia Phillies, who was 12-10, 3.71 ERA, Rich Hill of the Dodgers and Jason Hammel of the Cubs. Even 42-year-old Bartolo Colon of the Mets is on the free agent short list.

The paucity of top-notch free agent starters might swing open the door for a lively trade market for rotation pitchers.

Rebuilding teams looking to the future may make high-profile pitchers available for the right package of prospects.

The Tigers have suggested Justin Verlander might be in play, and the Chicago White Sox could ponder the possibility of moving ace Chris Sale or Jose Quintana if the price is right.

(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)

 

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