The notion that the Toronto Blue Jays could be in play for free agent Jon Lester might seem silly to some. After all, they entered the off season needing to upgrade at LF, 2B and the bullpen. Yet, they went and picked up a catcher. An expensive one. Now, they are being talked about as even willing to break their 5 Year Policy. This may seem like poppycock considering they have no glaring need for a starting pitcher.
The Blue Jays have a rotation that consists of Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ and R.A. Dickey with Aaron Sanchez and others waiting in the wings. Some have wondered if they could unload Buehrle and his $19M due in 2015. That would certainly create more financial wiggle room and give them an opening for the aforementioned Lester.
However, moving such a high salary might prove to be more difficult than on the PlayStation. Even if they could unload it, the return would almost assuredly not be an impact second baseman or left fielder unless the Blue Jays were willing to eat some salary.
If they were going to do that, they might as well try and move a smaller salary. This has led others to think that Dickey may in fact be the one to move. His $12M 2015 salary (a team option in 2016 for the same with a $1M buyout) may be easier to trade. Considering what the two pitchers offer, I’d rather pay $12M for it than $19M.
However, all of this may actually be secondary. The real reason the Blue Jays may look to deal Dickey has nothing to do with money. The club showed that they are putting a premium on clubhouse presence. They want a good team player, a leader and a mentor. This brings us to R.A. Dickey…and the point of this piece.
On Friday on Sportsnet’s Prime Time Sports 6pm portion, Bob McCown gave us a reason to believe that perhaps Dickey is not that clubhouse guy the Blue Jays are valuing. Around the 10:15 mark is where the Dickey talk gets interesting.
Apparently, John Gibbons has been asked about Dickey and his attitude. Of course, Gibby is going to defend him. But, we know the knuckleballer has roof demands. And, to a certain degree, the team has complied. In fact, in a Richard Griffin piece from the beginning of the 2014 season, it was pointed out that Dickey even has the power to influence the rotation set up. If Dickey wants to avoid certain stadiums or what have you, the Blue Jays push other starters to accommodate his demands. I once heard about the wild demands that Jennifer Lopez has for her appearances. It made me wonder why anyone would even have her appear. Is R.A. Dickey the Blue Jays’ J-Lo?
In Griffin’s piece, Dickey describes himself as a leader, or at least what he brings to that role:
"“I’m probably not going to be helpful as far as conventional mechanics go,” Dickey said. “Of course I was a conventional pitcher for a while, so I’ve got a little bit of experience, though that’s not necessarily a component to leadership. I think it has much more to do with the everyday things that come with being a baseball player. How to be a professional. How to encourage your teammates. How to wrap your arms around a guy when he’s had a bad day. How to motivate him when he can do better.”"
Except, from all accounts, this really isn’t the picture we’re getting of Dickey. No, it’s not so warm and fuzzy. On the Jeff Blair Show, we heard that Dickey and Gibby actually “got into it pretty heavily” (h/t Blue Jay Hunter). Previously, at Blue Jays From Away, I discussed the long leash that Dickey had been given during the first part of the season. Then as the season went on, it appeared that GIbby was not as generous with the time he allowed Dickey to stay in the game. Perhaps, this would have not sat well with the former Cy Young winner.
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After all, Dickey is the guy who, when nearing the end of his time with the Mets in 2012, angered his employers by using their holiday function to discuss publicly his displeasure with them not meeting his contract demands. So, it is not hard to imagine him voicing concern over being lifted from a game behind closed doors if he is willing to use a kids’ function to discuss contracts.
But, in fairness to Dickey, he did apologize for the incident.
If we turn our attention back to the Jeff Blair show, we get some very interesting comments about Dickey. Blair called him a “benign influence” and, well respected voice of the Blue Jays, Jerry Howarth took it one step further:
"“R.A. is kind of a man unto himself on an island, and you don’t want that in your clubhouse. He gives you 200 innings, he goes out there and starts 30 games, that’s great; but you need more than that. You need someone who is right there with his team, communicates with his team, listens, gets involved with his team; I don’t see R.A. doing that. For me, I can already see the team moving in a different direction. You have to have people who are part of a 25 man roster, not a separate entity.”"
That is a far cry from Dickey’s own description of what he brings to the team. However, perhaps we should do what he suggests in his apology over the holiday contract talks situation and “go ask his team mates”. We haven’t really heard any negative from them.
Due to the fact that he has obviously had a say in his ‘personal catcher’, perhaps the Blue Jays should look to unload him. McCown calls Josh Thole a caddy for R.A. Dickey and points out that by keeping Dickey around, you’re actually taking up TWO roster spots. One of those spots is tied up in a backup catcher who did not hit well at all. So, trading Dickey (and possibly Thole) could add more of that coveted roster flexibility that Alex Anthopoulos is raving about these days.