Kudos to the Blue Jays for finally acting like the big-market team they should be.
But what about the Mets?
Good for the Blue Jays for accepting the reality that some prospects are more valuable because of who they allow you to trade for.
But what about the Mets?
|Dickey to Blue Jays|
How does a team in the biggest of big markets trade away a Cy Young winner?
Because it was absolutely the right thing to do.
There are almost no circumstances in which the Mets should be praised for making a trade like the one they just made with the Blue Jays. No circumstances but these.
And that has less to do with who they got back for R.A. Dickey -- by all accounts, they did very well -- than for who they are right now and who Dickey is.
Who are they? They're a team with almost no chance of contending next year or the year after, with R.A. Dickey or without him. They're a team obviously still in recovery from their Madoff problems (look at how little they're spending in current dollars, and how anxious they were for Jason Bay to defer some of his money). They're a team with no true major-league outfielders, and few other major-league quality position players.
They're a team with a real chance of building an outstanding rotation (if Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are as good as scouts believe they'll be), but a team that knows that rotation will take a few years to develop.
And they just turned a 38-year-old pitcher they basically got for free into one of the top catching prospects in the game, plus a talented (but very young) pitching prospect.
Even if you believe that R.A. Dickey can keep pitching at the very high level he reached for the first time in 2012, it's a hard sell to say that he was ever going to pitch for a Mets team that could win. Even if you argue that knuckleball pitchers can last longer than traditional ones, wouldn't you be making an ill-advised longshot bet to keep Dickey with the idea that he might somehow help the Mets contend in 2015, at age 40?
R.A. Dickey provided the Mets with a nice and needed storyline in 2012. He provided Mets fans with a one-day-out-of-five respite from their second-half misery.
The only thing he could have done for the Mets in 2013 was to help them win a few more games (but not nearly enough) and perhaps sell a few more tickets (but again, not nearly enough). In fact, for all the supposed love Mets fans had for Dickey, a September start in which he was going for his 19th win was one of their five lowest-attendance games of the entire season.
The best thing Dickey could provide the Mets with over the next couple of years was a little more hope for a better future. The only way that could happen is if the Mets traded him.
Dickey didn't bring the Mets the return that James Shields brought the Rays, but that only makes sense. For one thing, the Rays traded Wade Davis along with Shields. For another, the baseball world still views Shields as more valuable than Dickey, because he has a much longer track record of success and doesn't rely on the unreliable knuckleball.
The Jays are taking a chance on Dickey, but it's a chance worth taking in a market where top starting pitching seems to get more expensive by the day. They gathered their prospects for years, and took heat for doing it. Now, with a lineup that can score runs and a division that seems to provide an opening, they're going for it.
No one can blame them for that, even if some people still don't seem to get the idea that just because we know a lot more about prospects than we once did, they are no more reliable than they ever were.
That's why you need plenty of them. That's why the Mets still need to be in talent-gathering mode.
Does that mean they should have traded David Wright, too, rather than sign him to an extension? No, it doesn't. There's no inconsistency here, because Wright is just 29 years old and is signed through 2020.
As Scott Miller wrote earlier this month, Wright asked for and received guarantees that the Mets planned to try to win, when he was negotiating his $138 million extension.
Wright has time. The Mets have time.
By 2020, though, R.A. Dickey will be turning 46. Perhaps he'll still be winning games then. Perhaps he'll be leading the Blue Jays back to the glory days last seen in the early 1990s.
It would have made no sense for the Mets to take that chance. It would have made no sense for the Mets to keep him.
The time will come for the Mets to start acting like a big-market team. It had better come soon.
This was not that time. This was the time for a New York team to trade a Cy Young winner.
Don't count on that time showing up again.