Last Friday, it was widely reported that the Toronto Blue Jays were nearing a deal with the New York Mets for reigning NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. Monday afternoon, that deal became official, and the Jays continue to stack their team for the 2013 season.
There was a firestorm of rumors and tweets over the weekend. My own Twitter account got a solid workout as I refreshed every 45 seconds trying to keep up with the latest reports out of New York. The deal went through a number of different iterations and combinations over the weekend before being finalized today.
On Sunday afternoon, rumors emerged that a deal was in place pending Dickey signing a contract extension with the Blue Jays, and that deal was struck Monday with a two-year extension worth $12 million per year. The Jays are also holding a $12 million option on a third year in 2016. This is pretty much the deal that Dickey was looking for from the Mets, but after talks broke down, Mets GM Sandy Alderson began shopping Dickey. According to Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos, talks started on a bus ride during the Winter Meetings a few weeks ago. After lots of deliberation and speculation, everything is now official.
The Jays are getting Dickey, and two catchers: Josh Thole and Mike Nikeas.
Headed to the Mets: Jays super-prospect Travis d’Arnaud, pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard and catcher John Buck. It was widely reported that d’Arnaud was the centerpiece in this deal, and according to an interview with Anthopoulos, Syndergaard was the piece that put this deal over the top. Buck was thrown in to offset the two catchers the Mets are losing. By shedding Buck’s $6 million dollar salary the Jays opened up some wiggle room for Dickey’s extension.
The next few weeks will undoubtedly revolve around rotation speculation, but it is safe to say Dickey will end up in the front end. The Jays’ starting rotation looks very deep this year. Most likely, the top five will be Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, but also in the mix are J.A. Happ and Kyle Drabek, who could be back from Tommy John surgery in time for the 2013 season. Last year, the Jays had a disastrous June when Morrow, Drabek and Drew Hutchinson were all moved to the DL in a four-day span. After last year’s injury-dominated season, the Jays seem poised to maintain a strong rotation even if they run into injury problems again.
There has been some discussion as to whether or not the Jays are overpaying for Dickey. While he is older (38), knuckleballers generally have a different age cutoff than traditional pitchers. The last great knuckleballer, Tim Wakefield, pitched into his 40s.
Dickey should fit in nicely to the rotation and should be a strong asset against the AL East next season. Over the last three seasons, he’s sported a 2.95 ERA and averaged 205 innings per season. There is no doubt that a pitcher who can go the distance and give up only a handful of runs is going to push the Jays over the top. There’s a reason why Dickey was named the Cy Young winner last season, and it’s hard to argue that Dickey won’t be an asset to the Jays in the coming seasons.
The controversy with this deal regards how much the Jays gave up for their new ace.
Ever since dealing franchise pitcher Roy Halladay, the Jays have been dead-focused on building the team through the farm system. High-caliber prospects have been the mark of the Blue Jays’ organization through the Anthopoulos years, and now that the farm system is chock-full of prospects, it is hard to change gears and start off-loading them.
d’Arnaud is considered one of the best prospects in baseball; he sits at number 12 on the top-prospects list, but more importantly, he’s ranked as the number one catching prospect. Last season, d’Arnaud had a solid year at the plate batting .333 with an OBP of .380. Las Vegas is known as a hitter-friendly park, but strong numbers like that can’t be ignored.
d’Arnaud had been touted as the future franchise catcher for the Blue Jays. Fans have grown accustomed to having a well-defined farm system, and there’s a pride that comes with having top-rated prospects like d’Arnaud and Anthony Gose. Earlier this offseason, Anthopoulos had pretty much taken d’Arnaud off of the table for trade talks. All along, d’Arnaud was considered a Blue Jay franchiser, and when rumors of him being dealt to the Mets surfaced, there was an outcry from fans.
Syndergaard was also surrounded by hype. So far, he has yet to pitch above high-A level Lansing, but his time spent in Vancouver in 2011 was enough to put him on the radar. While he only pitched 59 innings that season, he posted a 1.83 ERA and threw 68 Ks. He also helped the Vancouver Canadians, the Jays’ low-A affiliate, win the 2011 Northwest League championship. Last year, he continued that trend and averaged 10.6 K/9IP over 103 innings and held his ERA to a respectable 2.60. It’s still too early to tell, but some are predicting that Syndergaard could pan out and make his way into a starting rotation within a few years.
The last four years have been characterized by the Jays’ willingness to trade for prospects and develop talent from within. Adeiny Hechavarria was dealt to Miami as part of the first Blue Jays blockbuster, and when it was announced that d’Arnaud, Syndergaard and Gose were all on the table in the Dickey trade, fans began to doubt whether Dickey was worth all of the prospective talent. There’s also significant concern that d’Arnaud will have a stellar year in New York, and Jays fans will be left wondering what could have been.
This is a big change from the past; the Jays are now finished with hoarding prospects. Instead, they are taking all of the developing talent in the minors and trading it for proven players who will help them win now. It’s entirely possible one or more of the prospects the Jays traded away will turn into everyday starters, but that won’t happen for a few years at the earliest. A pitcher like Dickie is ready to carry the Jays to the playoffs today.
The Blue Jays have had a busy and exciting winter. They’ve added lots of infield ability, they’ve signed some big bats, and they’ve completely overhauled their starting rotation. The Jays have spent four years developing their farm system and completely rebuilding a baseball team. The prospects the Jays dealt won’t be big-league ready for a few years (with the exception of d’Arnaud), and in exchange for them, the Jays have undeniably improved. The Jays are focusing on the next two years instead of the next 10. The Blue Jays have put all of their eggs into the 2013 basket and are looking to be a driving force in the AL East next season.