Johan Santana has certainly hogged the rotation spotlight in 2012 with his recent no-hitter, but don’t let that fool you, R.A. Dickey has been the ace of this staff in 2012, and really for the past two seasons too. Plucked out of obscurity, the knuckleballing Dickey’s tenure with the Mets has gone from shocking to good to great, most recently posting a dominating 2.44 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 4.11 K/BB so far in 2012. Unlike his 2010 and 2011 seasons, where he sported low strikeout numbers–5.4 K/9 and 5.8 K/9 ratios, respectively–the 37 year-old has flashed a surprising 8.7 K/9 this season. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why Dickey has been so dominant this year (though his 4 point spike in SwStr% shows hitters are swinging more), but perhaps his knuckleball is merely more unhittable in 2012 than it has been in the past. Given this progression–and his impending free agency–it’s finally time for the Mets to put a price on the hurler.
Omar Minaya originally signed Dickey to a one-year, $600,000 deal in 2010, with Sandy Alderson extending him for another two years at $7.8 million. Together, that’s $8.4 million over three seasons. According to Fan Graphs, Dickey has been worth $29.7 million to-date–and we’re only in June! The righty was consistently worth $11 million per from 2010 to 2011 (at $11.2 and $11.1 million, respectively), but 2012 has proven to be his best season so far, being worth $7.4 million already. In the event he starts 32 games this season (like he did in 2011), he has the chance to be worth around $19.7 million in 2012.
In regards to an extension, the first obstacle would be the years. On the surface, the Mets shouldn’t hand a 37 year-old pitcher a long-term contract worth $19 million per season, but then again, Dickey isn’t the average elderly statesman. As a reminder, knuckleballers tend to stick around for awhile. Successful knuckleballers like Tim Wakefield, Tom Candiotti, Charlie Hough, Joe Niekro, Phil Niekro, Joe Niekro, and Hoyt Wilhelm all pitched into the early, mid, and even late-40’s. So based on this, the Mets extending Dickey another, say, three seasons wouldn’t be outrageous.
But now comes the difficult part–how much should this contract be worth? Given Dickey’s consistent success with the Mets over the past three seasons, offering the pitcher around $10-12 million per season would be a good deal for both sides. The new contract would give Dickey some security, and pay him a heck of a lot more than he’s ever made. For the Mets, they would be retaining a pitcher that can handle New York, might very well get better, and at the very least, keep around someone who is beloved (and rightfully so) by the fans.