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Dickey trade is a necessary gamble for the Mets’ future

It’s official: the trade between the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays is a done deal.

R.A. Dickey (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)
R.A. Dickey (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

R.A. Dickey, Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas are headed to Toronto.

Travis D’ArnaudJohn BuckNoah Syndergaard and Wuilmer Becerra are coming to the Mets.

I hate that the Mets are in a position where trading the reigning Cy Young Award winner makes sense – I’d much rather be thinking about winning the World Series than how many more years until they’ll have a shot to make the playoffs again.

But let’s be clear about something: the New York Mets were not going to the playoffs in 2013 with or without R.A. Dickey. They finished 74-88 this year with him, and were not in a financial position to add enough pieces through the free agent market to substantially improve.

Even if they did have the ability to spend like the Dodgers and decided to overpay Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher to play the outfield and got Rafael Soriano and a few other free agent relievers for the bullpen, there’s no guarantee those moves would have made the Mets better than the Nationals and the Braves.

The Mets have been selling a “plan” of waiting until 2014 when the bloated contracts that Omar Minaya gave to Johan Santana and Jason Bay finally expire. But next year’s free agent class is likely to be as disappointing and overpriced as the current one, and there are no legitimate prospects at the upper levels of the farm system besides Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores, who doesn’t really have a position now that David Wright is locked up.

So before today’s trade, all we really had to look forward to in 2014 were players who’d be another year older.

Travis D’Arnaud is regarded as the best catching prospect in baseball, and he could be the right-handed bat the Mets have needed in the middle of the order to compliment David Wright. (He might be a huge bust, too.) Sometime this season, perhaps as soon as Opening Day, we’ll get to start finding out.

Noah Syndergaard was the best pitching prospect in the Blue Jays system, and he could be a strong addition to a rotation headed by Jonathon Niese, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler in a few years. (Or he might be a huge bust as well.)

18-year-old Wuilmer Becerra probably won’t even get to Brooklyn in 2013, so he’s not really worth thinking about just yet – but Toby Hyde says he’s very interesting.

Today’s trade was a gamble, one that’s not popular with some Mets fans. But given the state of the organization, it’s the kind of move that had to be made. If Sandy Alderson had the freedom and willingness to make a similar trade with Jose Reyes in 2011, maybe the Mets would be further along in their rebuilding process by now.

If you’re not excited about 2013, that’s understandable – I’m not either. But I’m feeling a little better about 2014 – and I have a reason to care about the Blue Jays’ three visits to the Bronx next year.

13 thoughts on “Dickey trade is a necessary gamble for the Mets’ future

  1. I completely agree with you. I loved Dickey as much as the next Mets fan, but what good would it have done to keep him for another couple of years while the Mets continued to spin their wheels in the second division? Prospects are always a gamble, but at least Alderson appears to be sticking to his plan.


  2. As I mentioned to other Met fans of a certain age (late 40s), this trade may not be unlike the trade of all-star 1B-OF Lee Mazzilli to Texas for two minor league pitchers no one in the tri-state area had ever heard of. This trade, which happened a little over thirty years ago, brought to New York RHPs Ron Darling and Walt Terrrell. The moaning and gnashing of teeth on Art Rust’s sports talk radio on WABC-AM was long, loud, and often voiced by female fans of Mazzilli (just sayin’).

    When Terrell was later flipped to Detroit for Howard Johnson, we then had two crucial pieces to the 1986 WS Championship team. Mazzilli coming back as a free agent in August of 1986 was a bonus to Met fans and resulted in Maz earning a ring, too.

    Now, if the names of D’Arnaud, Syndergaard, Wheeler and Harvey are at the forefront with Wright on the next WS Championship in Flushing, it’ll all have been worth it. I’ll miss R.A. Dickey, but I feel that Alderson did very well in playing his cards in this trade.


    1. Will, That’s an excellent example that I hadn’t thought of. Your point is well-taken, and, for the record, yes, I am one of those fans of a certain age. I remember “Mazz” well. Maybe we can be a bit optimistic about the future as Mets fans after all!
      Cheers, Bill


  3. The Mets aren’t exactly one or two players out. And Dickey, as good as he is, is 38. And by the time the Mets are competitive, he’ll be past 40. Knuckleballers might have longer shelf lives than regular pitchers, but still…

    As much as I hate to see him go, it was the right move.


  4. Well, let me spoil the parade. Mazzilli was never ANYTHING other than a New York kid. He wasn’t ever Cy Young (or MVP) material. Hell, he didn’t even have much of a career, when all is said and done. When the Mets traded Mazz, I cheered. Because they traded a pretty much mediocre position player for two solid young arms. I’ve also seen some compare this trade to the Gary Carter trade. Hogwash! Carter was an established star that the Mets got for a couple of spare parts. If anything this is the Carter trade in reverse.

    Both D’Arnaud and Syndergaard already have huge holes in their games. This isn’t the Zack Wheeler trade, either. Wheeler has a full arsenal and was pretty much major league ready when he was drafted. Syndergaard has one pitch. At best, he’s John Glass. Remember him? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

    When you trade position players for young arms, THAT’S a plan. When you trade a Cy Young winner for a position player who is already out of position (They’ll have to put him at first within a year or two. If anything, he’s a better fit as a DH) and a one-pitch Single-A pitcher, THAT’S a salary dump. Nothing more, nothing less. Had they traded Wright to stock up on young arms, much as I like David, I could get behind that. And then the trade of Dickey makes more sense.

    The Mets moves this off-season are the moves of a team without any plan whatsoever–other than keeping some fannies in the seats watching Wright as they stumble forward for the next 7 years hoping for a miracle.

    The Mets could have had an ace pitcher at a bargain price. Instead, they tossed him away for a handful of “magic beans”. You know it’s a bad deal when every Mets fan who favors it talks about how much fun it will be to see Dickey pitch at Yankee Stadium. This was not a “necessary gamble”. This was a foolish, foolish throwing away of a huge asset. May God have mercy on their souls.


    1. Certainly, as far as these prospects are concerned, you may very well be right. Still, if Dickey is such a huge, obvious asset, then where were all the offers? If this was the best the Mets could do, then it stands to reason that lots of other teams out there had concerns about the future of a 38-year old pitcher, otherwise they’d be lining up at the door with offers.
      Also, how many games do you realistically think the Mets were going to win next year even if they’d have kept Dickey? 79 perhaps? It’s time for them to move on, and if D’Arnaud and Syndergaard was the best they could do, well, you could do a lot worse. You say that Syndergaard has huge holes in his game. Well, few 20-year old (he won’t turn 21 till next August) are finished products. His fastball sits in the mid-90’s, and two sites I looked at said he has two off-speed pitches which are decent now and will get better with more experience. His strikeout to walk ratio last season was a very impressive 4 to 1, and he averaged 10.6 K’s per nine innings.
      As for D’Arnaud, not sure what his huge holes are, either. He hasn’t finished any season as a catcher with a fielding percentage under .991 in any of his last four years in the minors. And a catcher that can bat .333, as he did last year in AAA, has to be considered nice prospect. Even if he only hits in the .280’s in the Majors, he’ll be a vast improvement over what they’ve been running out there the past couple of years.
      Sure, this move might not work out, but they would have been foolish to have turned down this deal.


      1. D’Arnaud isn’t considered much of a catcher by most scouts. He’s fairly easy to run on, not known for his arm. He’s “regarded” as the top catching prospect because of his bat, but it has to be factored in that everybody hits in the PCL. Hell, Nickeas would be a .300 hitter in the PCL. But with D’Arnaud, perhaps I should have said “Holes in his knees”. As young as he is, he’s already had multiple operations on them. That’s usually enough to remove the shine from the apple. Within a couple of years, he’ll have to be on first or in the OF–probably first because, again, not a great arm.That’s if he hits in the majors at all. I find it interesting that Toronto didn’t summon him at all last year…you know, before his knees gave out again. You speak of him hitting “only” in the .280s. I suspect he’s more of a .260s hitter (maybe) with some power and a whole lot of strikeouts (even when he was hitting .300 in the minors, he struck out an alarming 25% of the time–ironically on par with his average of throwing out baserunners).

        Syndergaard has one pitch–a fastball. That’s where all his strikeouts come from. The reason is, as a lot of Single-A batters would tell you–that he tips his other pitches. Now, it’s one thing if a scout says he’s tipping his pitches. It’s quite another if Single-A hitters say it. Major league hitters would just sit on the fastball and pound the hell out of the thing. What’s worse is that, the more he’s forced to rely on his fastball (cause he’s not fooling anyone), the more likely he is to blow out his arm long before he makes it to The Show.

        You speak, above, of Alderson sticking to his plan. What plan would that be? The one where you let a valuable infielder walk and get nothing in return? The one where you sign a valuable infielder to $140 million contract? The one where you trade a soon-to-be free agent outfielder for a prized young pitching prospect? Or the one where you trade a Cy Young winning pitcher–who was asking for less money than far lesser pitchers around you are getting–for a 32 year old journeyman catcher, a younger catcher with bad knees and a one-pitch Single-A pitcher? Cause I don’t see any plan there, at all…just a completely random set of moves.

        No, I have no delusions that the Mets were going to compete in 2013. But a pitcher of Dickey’s calliber does far more than pitch every fifth day. The Mets will not compete sooner because Dickey is here or if he’s gone. The Mets will not compete sooner with D’Arnaud and Syndergaard here or not. The best shot the Mets have to be competitive, so long as the Wilpons own the team, is through the draft. Minaya’s drafts were awful. Alderson’s have been great. The timetable for competing is unchanged by this move. If you want to speed the timetable through trade, you either trade prospects for stars (we ain’t got prospects and we won’t pay for stars) OR you trade stars and semi-stars for prospect pitchers only. If the Mets had gotten 4 or 5 young arms for Dickey, I’d say fine. That’s how you build because pitching prospects always have value and you can always flip them (if you have more than enough) for whatever else you need. History shows that when you trade an ace for a position player or a couple of prospects, only one of which is a pitcher, the team getting the ace makes out far better. Heck, we’d have done better to sign Dickey to his asking price and trading him in July.

        As for other teams offers or non-offers, it’s hard to get ace offers when you treat your ace like a #4 and spend your time bad mouthing him in the press. Plus only a few teams have both the money and the need. As I understand it, both the Angels and Rangers made coparable offers (which I would also have passed on because of the lack of pitchers in the package(s)).

        With this trade, the Wilpons have proven themselves incapable of running a major market franchise. And probably any franchise.


    2. MJ, you’ve taken the glass-half-empty position. That’s fine. But, by definition, if the glass if half empty, it’s also half full. The Mets’ GM is certainly rollling the dice on sending away a reigning Cy Young Award winner. But given the circumstances—the 2013 Mets’ slim postseason chances, the age of R.A. Dickey, the chances of Dickey having another 20-win season, a more-than-willing trade partner in the Blue Jays—the majority of Mets fans, even most baseball fans overall, see the Mets’ acquisitions as very positive and brimming with potential.

      No one ever stated or implied that Lee Mazzilli was a superstar by any stretch of the imagination. I brought up his name because there was a segment of the Met fanbase that was very loyal and devoted to him, just as there is to R.A. Dickey. I was comparing their popularity, and not their statistical achievements. People bemoaned both trades, at first; it could well be that the players coming to Flushing in the Dickey trade may well lead to strong Met teams and years of contention. It sure did in the Mazzilli trade. That is my point.


  5. MJ, Let me address some of your points:
    1) Mike Nickeas batted .215 in the PCL in 2008. The PCL is a hitter’s league, but there’s obviously a big difference between .333 and .215.
    2) If Syndergaard is tipping his pitches, as you say minor league hitters claim he is, then his 10.6 K’s / 9 innings is even that much more impressive. If they know what’s coming, and they still can’t hit it, how is that a negative?
    3) Show me a specific scouting report that says D’Arnoud isn’t much of a catcher. As for his arm, well, Piazza didn’t have much of an arm, either, nor did Ted Simmons, yet the overall value they provided at their position was still well above average. (And no, I don’t think he’ll be the next Piazza.)
    4) Trading Dickey or not may not change the time-frame for when the Mets can seriously contend once again, but it does give them some of the pieces they need to actually contend in a couple of years that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
    5) The Mets were never going to get “4 or 5” young arms for Dickey because he’s not worth it. They got fair-market value for a 38-year old pitcher who may or may not still be useful in a couple of years.
    6) I seriously doubt that other teams were scared off of Dickey by anything the Mets may have said in the press. Other G.M’s have access to the same objective info as everyone else, and they understand that in this business, not everything that’s said in the press is to be taken seriously.
    7) D’Arnoud has struck out in 20% of his plate appearances over the past two years combined in the minors, a bit on the high side, but not necessarily alarmingly so. I agree that he does have to learn to be a bit more patient at the plate to work out a few more walks.
    8) I can’t say I’ve loved each of the moves Alderson has made over the past couple of years, but there’s no question that he’s put them in a better position to compete in a couple of years than the last couple of administrations ever did. At least there haven’t been any Pedro Martinez / Johan Santana / Jason Bay signings. And the farm system is now in better shape than it’s been in a while.
    9) You are assuming that Dickey would have the same trade value (or higher) in July as he has at the moment. That’s far from a sure thing. He could be injured by that point, or his overall performance could be less impressive than last year.
    10) I strongly dislike the Wilpons as well, but we’ll have to wait a few more years to be able to determine if Sandy Alderson was a bust, or if he finally moved this franchise in the right direction. It’s just too early to tell.


  6. I forgot to mention that although I agree that Lee Mazzilli was a bit overrated, and was by no means a superstar, you may be surprised to hear that his career on-base percentage, .359, was higher than that of Lou Brock, Al Oliver, Steve Garvey and, more recently, Johnny Damon.


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