December 18, 2012 by Matt Musico
It’s not very often we see a pitcher win the Cy Young award and get traded to another team weeks later. However, it’s not everyday we see a 38-year-old knuckleballer earn the honor as the league’s top pitcher, either. Just about everything in R.A. Dickey‘s professional baseball career has been different, and his recent departure from the Mets to the Blue Jays in falls in line with the rest of his story. Sandy Alderson said on a conference call last night he did sincerely want to retain Dickey, but ended up receiving the players in a trade that would be considered difference makers for years to come to justify shipping him north of the border.
When taking emotion out of this deal for fans, this trade makes all the sense in the world. Alderson said he wouldn’t deal the Cy Young winner unless he was overwhelmed. Plenty of teams inquired about the knuckler at the Winter Meetings, but when the Mets GM was asking for a team’s top hitting prospect and pitching prospect, most decided it wasn’t worth the risk, except for the Blue Jays. Why did Alex Anthopoulos give up two of his top prospects for a 38-year-old pitcher? Anthopoulos said when he was shopping around Roy Halladay, who eventually was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies, he had the same asking price, and understood where Sandy was coming from.
Toronto and New York seemed to be likely trade partners from the get-go, as they’ve had plenty of conversations regarding multiple players on each of their respective rosters. They spent a lot of time together at the GM Meetings in California in November, which started the rumors these two would work out a deal. The real surprising part is that they eventually were able to come to terms on a deal.
I applaud Sandy Alderson for sticking to his guns and asking for top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud and top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard. He had all the leverage in the world, as he could have turned around and signed Dickey to a two-year/$26 million extension, squashing any potential trade. Alderson didn’t even think the deal was worth it until Syndergaard was included in the package. Now, that’s hard negotiating.
We heard reports about rival GMs saying Anthopoulos is crazy for trading away such promising prospects for Dickey, but I can see why he went for it all here. In the blockbuster deal with the Marlins back in November, they traded two of their top-five prospects to bring back Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and others, immediately making them a contender. Since they already sacrificed a big part of their future to win right now, Toronto wanted to ensure their rotation is top notch and ready to be elite in 2013. There is enough youth and promise on the mound and behind the plate at the Major League level for them to sacrifice more prospects. Heck, we found out that 70% of the top 100 prospects from 1990-2003 didn’t amount to what they were expected to. So why not trade them away for a proven ace?
The Rays have improved this winter, but outside of them, the Orioles have stayed exactly the same, as have the Yankees. The Red Sox have made a handful of moves that will make them a better team in 2013, but if you compare their off-season with Toronto’s, the Blue Jays have certainly been more successful (on paper). Also, they weren’t able to send cash to New York to off-set John Buck‘s $6 million salary because they reached their financial ceiling for next season. There may have been a conversation with ownership to go and get a pitcher to “put them over the top” since they’re already spending all this money and expectations are sky high.
Why would Alex Anthopoulos ever include d’Arnaud and Syndergaard in one trade? Neither one of them were projected to have a signficant role (if any) in 2013, when they have this pressure to make a playoff push, which may have convinced to Anthopoulos to pull the trigger. This trade couldn’t have been more attractive to both sides; the Blue Jays get the best available pitcher on the market for a fraction of the cost to fortify their rotation, as well as his personal catchers so he remains comfortable, and the Mets get two impact players that will help in their journey back to being a contender.
However, Mets fans hope d’Arnaud and Syndergaard are a part of the 30% of prospects that panned out the way teams were expecting them to.