By Steve Silverman
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R.A. Dickey won 20 games last year for the New York Mets and the NL Cy Young Award.
So of course the Mets are talking about trading him to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Why would the Mets want to keep the No. 1 pitcher in the National League who throws the knuckleball as well as any pitcher over the last 20 years.
For some reason, the Mets don’t want to give Dickey a two-year contract in the $25-to-26 million range. Perhaps they want to make changes in the way they do business and they want to get out of the business of giving out exorbitant contracts.
Except that $13 million per year for the reigning Cy Young Award winner is not exorbitant. It is what the market will bear. It’s actually a pretty good deal for his employers.
The Mets could make a pretty good case for getting rid of Dickey if he was demanding a four- or five-year deal.
That would be unreasonable. But Dickey is a much better pitcher than Anibal Sanchez, who just signed a five-year, $80 million deal with the Detroit Tigers.
There’s a good reason Dickey is not asking for that kind of long-term deal. He’s 38 years old and a contract of that length would be unseemly for a player of his age.
But paying Dickey $13 million might actually prove to be a bargain for the Mets. When you throw the knuckleball, you are not putting the pressure on your shoulder or elbow that fastball-curveball-slider pitchers do every five days.
It may not be quite as easy as some would have you believe, but Dickey’s knuckleball puts less pressure on his arm than most pitchers face.
Now, if you take a look at Dickey’s career record, it appears that he was just an ordinary pitcher prior to the 2012 season.
However, he was in the process of improving his knuckleball in 2010 and 2011. He started 58 games over those seasons and he had a 2.84 earned run average in ’10 and a 3.28 ERA in ’11.
He was preparing for his remarkable All-Star season last year. The one that should have seen him start the All-Star game for the National League, but the old-school values of expressionless Tony La Russa refused to give him that honor.
Dickey was a finished product in 2012 and there’s every reason to think he can throw his knuckleball effectively for three of four more seasons.
Dickey’s consistency and durability are his best factors. In addition to going 20-6 with his 2.73 ERA, he started 33 games for the Mets and pitched 233.2 innings. Looking back at the previous two years, he threw 174.1 innings in ’10 and 208.2 in ’11.
Those are not the innings pitched totals of a hurler who is starting to wear down.
Dickey is the game’s best knuckleball pitcher and he inherited that crown from Tim Wakefield, who retired after the 2011 season. Wakefield struggled his last two seasons, but he pitched very effectively through his 42nd birthday.
As effective as Wakefield was for the Red Sox – he won 10 or more games in 11 of his first 15 seasons with Boston – he only had three seasons in which his ERA was under 4.00
But it’s the age factor that matters most. Dickey should have at least two more excellent season and possibly as many as four.
The Mets appear to be getting ready to trade him to the Blue Jays for top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud. While there’s much to like about d’Arnaud, who hit .333 and 16 home runs for Toronto’s Triple-A team in Las Vegas, you don’t want to trade a pitcher who is capable of winning 15-to-20 games per season over the next four seasons.
The Mets may need to draw some financial lines, but not with Dickey. He’s too valuable and he means to much to them over the next two to four seasons.
Are you with Steve? Let us know in the comments…