Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 17, 2012
BASEBALL: The RA Dickey Deal
Honestly, I have trouble dealing rationally with the Mets trading RA Dickey on the heels of his (well-deserved) Cy Young season. Like letting Jose Reyes go, this is simply something you don't do if you intend to field a competitive team long term in a major market like New York. Sure, Dickey's 38, but he's a knuckleballer; he's as good a bet as David Wright to be a productive contributor to the team in 2015 or 2016. He is also, for very valid reasons, enormously popular and fun to watch, and his salary demands were very reasonable. The Mets' shabby treatment of Dickey reinforces the view that this is a second-rate organization.
If you accept the premise that the Mets had no choice to trade Dickey, then sure, they seem to be getting a decent return - catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud, pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard, and dealing Josh Thole for John Buck (which seems a slight downgrade but Buck has his uses and Thole had a terrible year; his value to the Jays is knowing how to catch Dickey). But far from certain to be equal value. Syndergaard is a 20 year old pitching prospect who's never pitched above A ball; with 53 walks and 196 Ks in his pro career in Rookie and A ball compared to 54 walks and 230 K for Dickey last year in the NL, Syndergaard is at the bottom of a very tall mountain, the top of which is the kind of pitcher Dickey is now. He's not rated a better prospect than Mike Pelfrey was, and Pelfrey just signed with the Twins after an enormously disappointing career in blue and orange. As for d'Arnaud, he has no speed and no plate discipline (41 walks per 600 minor league plate appearances), and had a .418 career minor league slugging average entering 2011. He's hit a lot better since then, but Citi Field is not Las Vegas in the PCL. Also, d'Arnaud played only 67 games this season due to torn knee ligaments; the Mets seem unworried, which is reassuring if you have a lot of faith in the Mets crack medical staff.
Maybe both prospects work out, but the Mets are courting the KC Royals cycle here, where it doesn't even matter how good the prospects are because nobody believes anymore that the team is going to spend the money to field a contender when they're ready. And unlike the Royals, they can't blame this on playing in a small market.
Dickey's season, along with Johan Santana's no-hitter, made the 2012 Mets watchable through everything that went wrong. This deal represents a rejection of fielding a watchable team in 2013, and suggests a long-term approach that gives less rather than more cause for optimism.