He may not have won another Cy Young after arriving in the AL with the Blue Jays, but R.A. Dickey was a better pitcher in Toronto than he gets credit for.
On December 16, 2012, the Blue Jays made a gigantic swap with the New York Mets that still gets talked about regularly today. Unfortunately, it’s often in a negative light.
Then-GM Alex Anthopoulos agreed to send Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, John Buck, and Wuilmer Becerra to New York in exchange for the 2012 NL Cy Young award winner, R.A. Dickey, as well as catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. It was an “icing on the cake” trade after the Blue Jays had made another blockbuster with the Miami Marlins earlier that off-season, and it was supposed to help the team get back to the World Series. After all, Dickey was coming off a three year stint in New York where he averaged a 2.95 ERA over that span.
Unfortunately, the Blue Jays fell flat on their face in 2013, finishing 74-88 and last in the AL East.
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Of course, they would go on to become a playoff contender two years later, reaching the ALCS in both 2015 and 2016, and in both seasons Dickey was still an important part of the rotation. However, fans never really got over the idea that he the trade was a disaster, largely because Syndergaard blossomed into an ace-level talent in New York while Dickey couldn’t repeat the numbers he put up as a Met.
The thing is though, the knuckleballer was nowhere near as bad as people seem to remember him, and I was reminded of this yesterday as I was flipping through my Twitter feed. There I saw a tweet from the Blue Jays’ account that highlighted his performance in the 2nd half of 2015, when he went 8-1 with a 2.80 ERA after the All-Star break.
Again, he wasn’t a Cy Young level talent in Toronto, but he was a steady presence on the mound, and a source of a lot of much-needed innings. He averaged 206 frames a season over his four years spent in a Blue Jays uniform, finishing 49-52 with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.251 WHIP. He also averaged 2.2 bWAR over his first three seasons before struggling a fair bit in 2016, but it’s worth noting that he was 41 by then, and pitched in Toronto during his age 38-41 seasons. Even a knuckleballer can’t last forever.
So while it’s common to see Blue Jays fans talk about their frustration with that trade from back in 2012, I’m not sure that it’s totally fair. Yes, Syndergaard was a painful piece to lose, but the career trajectory of prospects is very hard to predict. More importantly, Dickey’s value to Toronto shouldn’t be tied to what someone else did elsewhere. As a Blue Jay he was a lot better than a lot of people remember him.