In a move that has solidified the Blue Jays’ Full-All-Star-Caliber-Potential starting rotation, the Blue Jays have traded prospects Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, John Buck and Wuilmer Becerra to the Mets in return for Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, Josh Thole and Vancouver-born Mike Nickeas. In addition, the Toronto Blue Jays have extended Dickey to a 2 year/$24M extension with a 2016 club option worth $12M and a $1M buyout. Dickey is slated to make $5M for his 2013 season.
This will be a tough pill to swallow for a lot of Blue Jays fans as the acquiring price is pretty high, but it may be the best move if the Jays really want to contend for the World Series championship within the next few years. While Dickey may not extend for the Jays, he is a proven Cy Young pitcher coming off a 2.95 ERA over the last three years. He is not a fluke, and there should not be a concern with overall AL numbers, as he didn’t not predominantly use his knuckleball in his early career. In fact, over the past 3 years against AL opponents Dickey has a 1.77 ERA, 77 Strikeouts and 2 Complete Games over 71 innings. While those numbers represent about a third of a season over three years, it’s fair to say that Dickey can be great in the AL East.
The biggest concern is the prospect price that Anthopoulos has paid to net Dickey. Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard represent Toronto’s top two prospects, and will be an awful lot to give up for a short term player in Dickey, a backup catcher in Thole and a minor league catcher.
A simple way of approaching it is that back in 2009 Roy Halladay was traded for Kyle Drabek, Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Taylor. Taylor was traded for Brett Wallace, who in turn was traded for Anthony Gose. Essentially the Blue Jays would be trading one Cy Young pitcher in Roy Halladay for Dickey, while retaining Gose and Drabek and giving up Syndergaard. The main difference is that the Blue Jays are acquiring the Cy Young caliber talent at a time where the team is ready to compete in the post season. Adding Dickey to a rotation that already included Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero could possibly set up Toronto to have the best starting five in the entire MLB.
Yes, Syndergaard and d’Arnaud are very coveted prospects, but at the same time that is exactly what they are; prospective major leaguers. Neither player has spent any time in the majors, making it very difficult to promise the greatness that they are projected to be. We’ve seen first hand former top Blue Jays pitching prospect Kyle Drabek struggle mightily in the majors, sporting a career 5.93 K/9 (fairly below average), 5.77 BB/9 (absolutely terrible) and a 5.34 ERA over 167 innings of work at exactly replacement level production. Syndergaard may sport equal or better prospective “stuff” in the minors, but he also has a ways to go. According to Baseball Prospectus, he is projected to be a high-end no. 2 starter but is a high risk with “some effort in the delivery; secondary offerings need grade jump for ceiling”. He will need some more time to develop and needs to face better talent at higher organizational levels. d’Arnaud seems be ready to go next year and is better ready for major league level talent, but we’d have to see how he reacts to pitchers making adjustments against him before the Mets can call him Gary Carter 2.0.
There are also concerns that Dickey will regress in pitching quality as he approaches his 40’s. What makes him different from most other pitchers, however, is that Dickey is a knuckleballer who doesn’t have a UCL. Throwing the knuckleball requires a tight grip on the ball to restrict any rotation of the ball at release point, essentially pushing the ball at a high speed. That type of almost effortless release can have Dickey pitching well into his 40’s, and depending on how the rest of his body holds up, possibly even longer.
Another very important note is the value of the contract that Dickey signed. At 2 years/$25M the Jays get almost a steal of a deal if he stays at mid value over the last 3 years. With Ryan Dempster signing a 2 year/$26.5M deal, Anibal Sanchez signing a 5 year/$80M deal and relievers Jonathan Broxton and Brandon League signing 3 year/$21+M contracts, the Jays are getting a very good deal based on how many more wins Dickey brings to the team.
What should also come into account is the fact that even with the loss of these prospects that the Jays have traded, the team still has a mid-range farm system. Even with Syndergaard, d’Arnaud, Justin Nicolino, and Jake Marisnick leaving the team, the Blue Jays still have Aaron Sanchez, Sean Nolin, D.J. Davis, Roberto Osuna, Daniel Norris, Marcus Stroman, Matt Smoral, Alberto Tirado, Franklin Barreto and many more prospects in their farm system, developing to be ready sometime in the future, with some slated to replace current Blue Jays post-2015.
It’s more than evident that the Blue Jays have completely re-branded their team in what can safely say is their biggest off season in team history. They look to increase their win total by a lot more than their 2012 total of 73. Their starting rotation looks like this: R.A. Dickey/Josh Johnson/Mark Buehrle/Brandon Morrow/Ricky Romero. Their batting order looks like this: Jose Reyes (S), Melky Cabrera (S), Jose Bautista (R), Edwin Encarnacion (R), Adam Lind (L), Brett Lawrie (R), Colby Rasmus (L) J.P. Arencibia (R) and either Emilio Bonifacio or Maicer Izturis (both switch hitters). The Blue Jays are slated to spend $115.6M in payroll for 2013, as projected by James G. The team has lost a lot of their top prospects. The year 2013 will set up either one of the most joyous baseball seasons if the Jays do well, or set the fans up for one of the most disastrously painful seasons if the team fails to meet their high expectations.
April cannot come any sooner.