(Long Island, N.Y.) There are times when a baseball team must make a tough decision for the overall good of the organization, even if it is an immediate downgrade at the time. Such was the case when the New York Mets reluctantly traded right-handed pitcher R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays on December 17th, even though he was the ace of their staff, a 20-game winner and the reigning Cy Young Award winner in the National League.
So it is entirely possible that the team will head north from spring training with none of the prospects that they acquired in the seven-player deal. The main two youngsters headed to Gotham are Triple-A catcher Travis d’Arnaud and Single-A righty starter Noah Syndergaard. Both may require additional seasoning in the minor leagues, although it appears that d’Arnaud – who is considered a blue chip prospect – will be given ample opportunity to win the job. If not, then John Buck (who was also part of the swap) will hold down the fort behind the plate.
Replacing the 230 innings that Dickey threw is also a big question that needs to be answered before the 2013 season begins, but general manager Sandy Alderson did a great job in moving a player while his value is at its highest. Dickey was a reclamation project that the Mets picked up off the scrap heap three years ago and the journeyman went 11-9 and 8-13 before putting it all together last summer (20-6, 2.73 ERA). He is also 38 years old, and even though he is a knuckleduster and can probably pitch into his forties, the Mets are looking at a few more years before they are a legitimate playoff contender.
By the time that the rest of the team caught up to Dickey, his skills would have been declining. Then there is the issue of economics. Dickey wanted an extension that would have cost the Mets over $20 million and they are still in the process of lowering the payroll and rebuilding with young players from the farm system.
To be able to bring in two players with a huge high ceiling in the same trade should be lauded as a stroke of genius, regardless of how well Dickey pitches in the next year or so. The 23-year-old d’Arnaud, who was considered the top prospect in Toronto’s system – was hitting .333 with 16 home runs after 67 games at Triple-A Las Vegas before going down with a left knee injury. At Single-A Lansing, Syndergaard, 20, had an 8-5 mark with a 2.60 ERA. In 103.2 innings, he struck out 122 batters while only surrendering 31 bases on balls.
So we may not be able to fully critique this deal until 2015 or later, but if these two players pan out the way that the so-called experts have predicted, then this will be a trade that benefited both teams. The Blue Jays have gone through a complete overhaul this offseason and added a slew of high-priced veterans. Dickey may add a World Series ring to his trophy case before it’s all said and done.
And championships are what the Mets need to be concerned with. Building them one – or two – pieces at a time.