R.A. Dickey has passed his physical and the Blue Jays much talked about trade for the Mets ace is now complete.
The Jays managed to negotiate an extension with Dickey that will see him earn $29 million from 2013 – 2015 with a club option for $12 million in 2016. The 2016 year includes a one million dollar buyout, should the Jays not exercise it. Top prospects Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard head to the Mets along with John Buck and his $6 million dollar contract (a must to make this trade work – Anthopoulos indicated the Jays are at their financial limit for 2012) and Wuilmer Becerra.Becerra, a native of Venezuela, played the first 11 games of his professional career this past season before turning 18 on October 1st. The right-handed hitter stands 6’4″ and played left and right field during his Rookie League debut.
Coming to the Jays with Dickey are his catcher Josh Thole (he caught 27 of 33 Dickey starts last season) and Mike Nickeas. The Jays wanted Nickeas in this deal to have a backup as insurance in case Thole gets injured. Nickeas has caught Dickey’s knuckleball in the past. Nickeas, a Vancouver, British Columbia native, appeared in 47 games for the Mets in 2012. The right-handed hitting 29-year-old posted a .174/.242/.229 batting line in 122 plate appearances with New York. He has MLB experience in parts of three seasons, but is not yet arbitration eligible.
The Jays fan base, while excited, is worried about how much the Jays gave up in this deal. To them I say, now is the time. If they weren’t all in, if they were waiting for Syndergaard who won’t likely pitch in the majors until 2015 if everything goes well for him, if they were waiting for d’Arnaud to go through the regular bumps in offensive production a rookie experiences – especially as a catcher who is spending much of his time learning his pitchers and not he opposing teams – then they might as well have traded Bautista, 32, or Buehrle, 33, for some prospects who project to arrive in the big leagues in 2014 or 2015 and go for it “in the future”. But for this Jays team, the time is now.
And for those who have called Dickey a “one year wonder”, you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. Educate yourselves (or allow me to do it for you with this blog post). Since Dickey started throwing his knuckleball in 2010, his numbers over the past three seasons are staggering. He posted a 2.84 ERA in 174 1/3 innings in 2010 and then followed that up with a 3.28 mark in 208 2/3 innings the ensuing season. And we all know what he did last year: He led the National League with 233.2 innings pitched, 230 strikeouts and five complete games, posting a 2.73 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. He made his first All-Star appearance, collected MVP votes and won the NL Cy Young Award.
For those who say “he’ll never pitch well in the AL”: In Dickey’s six starts vs. the AL East since 2010 (when he became a knuckleballer), including three against the Yankees – 42 innings, 20 hits, 8 earned runs, 45 strikeouts, 11 walks, and a 1.71 ERA. How will the knuckleball play at Rogers Centre when the dome is closed? In his seven starts indoors since 2010 – 52.1 innings, 42 hits, 10 earned runs, 44 strikeouts, 10 walks, and a 1.73 ERA. Skeptics will say that those games are too small of sample size to judge Dickey’s worth. To them I say, he’s logged 616.2 stellar innings over the past three seasons since committing to the knuckleball. It’s hard to “luck” your way into 600+ quality innings.
I don’t blame Anthopoulos for going all in. The Yankees and Red Sox are on the decline, it remains to be seen whether the Orioles can catch lightning in a bottle twice, and the Rays have their usual financial hurdles that force them to sell high on top names and hope prospects with controllable contracts work out. The division is wide open and the Jays are going for it. For the first time in years, the Jays are really going for it. Thank God!
It makes no sense extending Bautista and Encarnacion to multi-year contracts and then walk away from an opportunity to go for it while they are still under contract for a few years. If the Jays don’t make this move, they risk being in the perpetual re-build phase – only one or two players away and a prospect might develop in time and get us there.
And remember, the Jays have some very good catching depth in double-A with A.J. Jimenez. I think d’Arnaud will develop into an allstar, so don’t get me wrong. But Dickey is an allstar now. He may not win another Cy Young (it would be unfair to think he would) but he should be a good pitcher for a few more years. And you don’t have to worry about him going to the DL for Tommy John surgery. He was born without a UCL in his right elbow.
What makes Dickey different from other knuckleballers of the past is that he throws two of them. He’ll lob in the same 60 mph pitch the Jays saw for years floating out of the hand of Tim Wakefield. But more often than not, Dickey sits at 77 – 80 mph with his knuckler This makes the pitch easier to control, limits walks, and racks up strikeouts (230 last season to led the NL).
For those worried about the depth of the system because of the prospects we’ve given up to first the Marlins and now the Mets: we have Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchinson, and Luis Perez who should all be fully healthy for the 2014 season.
The chips are in the middle of the table – and it’s about time.