The dust has finally settled and the R.A. Dickey saga is over. On Monday night, he signed an extension with the Blue Jays, making the seven-player, blockbuster deal finally official after days of unconfirmed rumors and speculation. The deal surprised many Mets fans, including me. However, it was one that will pay off for them in the future.
No, it sure wasn’t easy to give up the reigning Cy Young award winner. How often do these special players come around, especially in the Mets organization? Plus, he was signed for just $5 million next season. Seems like a no-brainer — for a conventional pitcher perhaps. However, the situation the Mets and Dickey were in was one that no one has ever seen before. Not only was Dickey a knuckle ball pitcher (and those are a rarity now), but he had a completely different career path than most, one that made his future uncertain. Maybe with a “regular” knuckle ball pitcher at 38 years old, it would be safe to assume that they can continue at the same level of production for another four or five years. But with Dickey having spent most of his career as a conventional pitcher and missing his UCL (a ligament in his right elbow) nobody is sure how his arm will wear down as his career progresses. My guess, considering the fact that he throws a very hard knuckle ball, is that Dickey can be very good for another two years, and decent after that. With his value so high at the moment — the highest it will ever be — trading him to a team willing to take the risk made sense. It only takes one organization that thinks he can go another five years pitching as well as he has to make a deal worthwhile. Giving up a reigning Cy Young award winner will leave a bad taste in the mouth of some Mets fans, but the uncertainty and quality of the package the Blue Jays offered made it more than bearable.
One thing that must be considered is the window of winning. Dickey, at best will likely be dominant through 2014. The window the Mets have to make a run at the division is 2014 and beyond. The two time periods don’t match up well. Dickey would be on the decline as the rest of the team was improving. The added fleibility the Mets will get in those years by having young players in their pre-arbitration years making the minimum instead of $12 million or more for Dickey is another point to be considered.
Now let’s take a look at the trade itself. Along with Dickey, the Mets cleared Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas from the roster, two of the worst (at least last year) hitting catchers in baseball. Here’s how they compare to the rest of the league:
Sandy Alderson didn’t really give up anything of value here. Without Dickey, they no longer needed catchers who could catch the knuckle ball. The Blue Jays almost did the Mets a favor by taking those two.
The Blue Jays’ package is where this trade gets interesting. Toronto dealt the Mets three prospects — Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, and Wuilmer Becerra — as well as John Buck. Two of these prospects (d’Arnaud and Syndergaard) are now easily considered two of the three best Mets prospects. Let’s take a look at what to expect from the two of them.
d’Arnaud was the centerpiece of the deal, and rightfully so. The 6’2″ catcher has the potential to be the next great Mets catcher. He has the ability to hit for average, as well as power. He’s also athletic behind the plate. Here’s what Baseball America says about him:
He’s a rare catching prospect that projects to hit in the middle of a lineup. He is an above-average hitter who should hit for at least average power. He doesn’t walk much but makes consistent hard contact, getting hits even when his timing is off or he gets off balance. He has the bat speed and strength to hit plenty of homers and lets his power come naturally, employing a short stroke and all-fields approach.
Speaking of Baseball America, d’Arnaud was ranked 17th overall last year, and will surely be higher in this year’s list. Since 2000, there have only been eight catchers ranked 17th or better: Devin Masoraco (has had minimal MLB playing time with the Reds), Jesus Montero, Victor Martinez, Joe Mauer, Matt, Wieters, Buster Posey, and Carlos Santana. When a catcher is ranked this high, they are probably going to be very successful.
d’Arnaud, in my opinion, will be at worst, a serviceable catcher who hits ten home runs and bats .260. At best, he is a 25 home run hitter who can bat .300. He’s not quite Mike Piazza at the plate (not as much power) but he can certainly be a dominant force in the middle of the Mets’ lineup.
The Mets managed to snag another top prospect from the Blue Jays: pitcher Noah Syndergaard. Syndergaard is a big 6’5″ righty who has a mid-90s fastball and very good control. Last year in the Low-A Midwest League, he went 8-5 with a 2.60 ERA in 103.2 innings, striking out 10.6 batters per nine innings while walking only 2.7.
The former first-round pick was ranked by MLB.com as the 83rd best prospect in baseball. In an e-mail exchange with Eric Simon of Amazin’ Avenue, Assistant GM Paul DePodesta had this to say about Syndergaard:
We see a big, physical presence who is athletic and a strike thrower. You just don’t see many guys his size at his age command the strike zone the way he has as a professional, especially with big velocity. In addition to the power, there’s also deception to what he does. As with D’arnaud, we’ll refrain from making any predictions as to where Noah will be next here until we have a better feel for him in spring training.
Ther have been comparisons here to Zack Wheeler. Both are tall, lanky right-handers with fastballs in the mid to high 90s. While Syndergaard doesn’t have the fantastic breaking ball that Wheeler does, he has much better control, even at a much younger age. Whoever you compare him to, he immediately becomes the third best prospect in the system without question. He has a bright future ahead of him, as does d’Arnaud.
As a whole, this deal is quite a bargain for Sandy Alderson and the Mets. I have to applaud them for holding out for two top 100 prospects, even though very few people thought they could actually get that kind of return. Fans were dismayed by the trade the Royals proposed, asking for Dickey and Zack Wheeler in exchange for just Wil Myers. That gave me a bad feeling that teams weren’t going to put much value in Dickey, but it turns out I was wrong and thankfully so. The team got two high-profile prospect, and a third one who could be very significant down the road who I have only mentioned briefly. To reiterate: it is tough to part with Dickey, but for the package that the Mets got, it may very well look like a huge steal down the road.