R.A. Dickey was one of the lone bright lights for Mets fans over the last three years. He is an extraordinary man, pitcher, and humanitarian. The one time I met him, I told him he was an inspiration – a sentiment many other fans share. As he continued to hone his craft, watching him pitch became an absolute joy.
His last start at Citi Field (when he won his 20th game) was an event. It’s clear that he was beloved by the fans. Add his incredible on field accomplishments to his fan favorite status, and his trade to the Toronto Blue Jays becomes hard to swallow. While painful, saying goodbye to R.A. Dickey was a calculated risk the Mets were right to take. Dickey is heading to the Blue Jays with Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas, in exchange for catcher Travis d’Arnaud, right handed pitcher Noah Syndergaard, catcher John Buck, and 18 year old outfield prospect Wuilmer Becerra, who Keith Law described today as “toolsy, with high upside, a great swing, and baseball savvy.”
I hammered Sandy Alderson about a week ago, after he predicted that the 2013 roster would look almost identical to 2012. With Dickey now gone, and Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard here, an enormous change has been made (and I owe Sandy a beer). I’m one of the fans who loved R.A., but I also realized that if the Mets could address their long-term needs by dealing him, they should do it.
The majority of the most knowledgeable, hardcore Mets fans love this trade. Here’s why: The Mets have one indisputable strength at both the major league and minor league levels. That strength, is starting pitching. That strength, is what they dealt from. Losing Dickey hurts for the short term, but no one expected the Mets to contend in 2013 anyway. By mid-season 2013, it’s likely that Zack Wheeler will have joined Jonathon Niese, Matt Harvey, and Dillon Gee in the Mets’ starting rotation. In the minors, the Mets have the newly acquired Noah Syndergaard, along with Michael Fulmer, Rafael Montero, Domingo Tapia, and many others.
A host of writers are now saying that trading Dickey means “punting” 2013, with some going as far as to hysterically say that dealing him means that the Mets won’t contend until 2016. What exactly would the Mets have accomplished in 2013 if they had kept Dickey? Additionally, a host of local and national writers are now jumping all over the Mets for launching what they’re calling a smear campaign against Dickey on the way out. When you dig deeper, you’ll realize it was one writer who smeared Dickey (before later elaborating on his comments at length).
Beyond the shouts of “punting” and “smearing,” another writer claimed that the Mets dealt Dickey because they couldn’t afford to meet his 2 year, $26 million dollar asking price (only offering $20 million). If anyone thinks the Mets traded Dickey because they couldn’t afford an additional $3 million dollars in 2014 and 2015, they’re delusional.
The Mets dealt R.A. Dickey because of the package they were able to get in return. Forget catcher John Buck, who is likely a three week placeholder at catcher. This deal revolves around catcher Travis d’Arnaud and right handed pitcher Noah Syndergaard. d’Arnaud, 23, is one of the best prospects in all of baseball. Scouts expect him to hit for both average and power in the majors, and his defense (both in terms of arm strength and mobility behind the plate) is viewed as above average. He’s also known to possess leadership skills. d’Arnaud is ready for the Majors, but the Mets will likely keep him in AAA for the first 20 days of the 2013 season in order to ensure an additional year of control.
Noah Syndergaard, is a 20 year old right handed starting pitcher. He’s a potential four pitch guy, who already possesses an electric fastball and above average changeup. He’s currently refining his curveball and slider. Some scouts have compared him favorably to Roy Halladay. John Sickels says Syndergaard projects as a number two starter in the Majors, but he also projects Zack Wheeler as a number two type (while many other scouts see Wheeler having true ace potential). Syndergaard will likely start the 2013 season with high-A St. Lucie, and could see Citi Field sometime in late 2014.
In d’Aarnaud and Syndergaard, the Mets have acquired players who immediately slot in as two of the top three prospects in the organization. The Mets will also be receiving another “non-elite” prospect in the deal. Regarding d’Arnaud, after you factor in positional scarcity, it’s important to note exactly how valuable he may turn out to be. Catchers who hit for both average and power while playing above average defense are almost impossible to find.
The Mets have just made a move that may yield a franchise catcher and top of the rotation starter for the next decade. It’s impossible to tell if d’Arnaud and/or Syndergaard will meet expectations, but it’s also impossible to know how R.A. Dickey’s career will go from here. He could blow out his arm in April, or win three more Cy Young awards. The point, is that the Mets dealt from a position of strength in an attempt to significantly improve their chances for the future.
Again, the Mets weren’t contenders in 2013 with Dickey, and they’re likely not contenders this year without him. In 2014, though, with a potential franchise catcher in place, Zack Wheeler likely in the rotation, Noah Syndergaard on the horizon, and other moves that should be made after the Johan Santana and Jason Bay deals come off the books, the team very well may be contenders. With the aforementioned starting rotation, along with Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Josh Edgin, Bobby Parnell, Jeurys Familia, and others, the Mets have the start of something solid. Trading R.A Dickey doesn’t doom the Mets, it simply changes the dynamic. Hopefully, the change is for the better.
This trade is the sign of a continued plan, not of something devious. It’s a smart move, one that’s being viewed by those who are familiar with the players involved as a huge win for the Mets. According to Buster Olney, one American League official said on Saturday that Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos is “out of his mind” for dealing d’Arnaud and Syndergaard for Dickey.
It’s understandable that a large number of Mets fans are upset that they’re losing R.A. Dickey. I’m upset that I’ll no longer be able to root for this man in the orange and blue. What some fans need to realize, is that the Mets did this to increase their chances of relevancy in 2014 and beyond. If they weren’t able to acquire pieces like d’Arnaud and Syndergaard, the deal wouldn’t have been made. Fortunately for the Mets, the right deal came along. Saying goodbye to R.A. Dickey is tough, but his departure will hopefully be remembered as another step towards a brighter future for this franchise and its fans.