Like all 29 other teams, the New York Mets had numerous holes on the roster to address once the offseason began. Initially the team’s focus remained on a contract extension with third baseman David Wright, but there was an apparent need to work out an extension with 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey as well. Wright’s deal was completed, as expected, but the team’s efforts regarding Dickey shifted towards a sole focus on moving him for the best package of prospects available. Despite what were perceived to be some ridiculous requests throughout the process, Sandy Alderson ultimately accomplished his goal once the team reached agreement on a seven player deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.
d’Arnaud is easily the prize of the group, as some consider him to be the top catching prospect in all of baseball – a valuable commodity considering the lack of quality players at the position. Add in the fact that d’Arnaud is nearly MLB-ready and it’s easy to see why there has been such interest in him up to this point. He’s turn 24 just before the start of Spring Training and it wouldn’t be out of the question to see him land on New York’s Opening Day roster with a strong showing, but it’s far from a guarantee. d’Arnaud has limited exposure to anything above Double-A, as he only appeared in 67 games with Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas this past year as his season was cut short by a knee injury. The team was given a chance to review d’Arnaud’s medical records before the deal was completed and reportedly have no concerns about his knee moving forward.
He’d hit .333/.380/.595 with 16 HR and 21 doubles in 303 plate appearances before the injury and was well on his way towards a career year and a potential late-season callup. d’Arnaud will see New York this season, it’s likely just a question of when.
Buck, in the interim, gives the Mets the flexibility to not rush d’Arnaud into the lineup. The nine year veteran had a terrible 2012 season with the Miami Marlins, batting just .192/.297/.347 in 398 plate appearances – the worst offensive performance of his career. On a good year he’s capable of offering 15-20 HR, but Buck has never been considered a focal point to an offense like some believe d’Arnaud can ultimately be.
The inclusion of Syndergaard wound up being somewhat surprising, considering d’Arnaud’s inclusion as the centerpiece of the deal was leaked early, as he was arguably the team’s top pitching prospect. The 20 year old former 1st Round pick (2010) spent the 2012 season with Class-A Lansing, making 19 starts and 27 appearances. He’d go 8-5 with a 2.60 ERA, 10.6 K/9, and 2.7 BB/9 over 103.2 innings on the year. Syndergaard holds a 1.085 WHIP and 0.2 HR/9 for his minor league career (176.0 IP). The 6’5” right-hander projects to be a mid-rotation starter in the long haul.
Becerra was an international free agent signing ($1.3 Million bonus) by the Blue Jays in June 2011. He made his professional debut this past season, appearing in just 11 games with the team’s Rookie League affiliate. The Venezuelan native just turned 18 this past October.
Heading North of the border in this deal, Thole and Nickeas will both compete with incumbent Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia for playing time. The appeal both brings is their familiarity with Dickey, a knuckleball pitcher. Thole, 25, has been the Mets primary catcher the past two seasons and is reaching arbitration for the first time. He’s a .261/.331/.333 career hitter in 1,026 plate appearances, though he had a down season in 2012 at the plate. Nickeas, 29, saw just 122 plate appearances with the team this past season, hitting .174/.242/.229. Thole would have to appear to be a favorite to challenge Arencibia for playing time, but his inclusion in the deal was never a focal point.
Dickey’s story is well known at this point. Signed as a free agent by the Mets three years ago, neither side could have foreseen the success he’d have on the mound. Things escalated this past season, into the best year of the 38 year old right-hander’s career. He went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, leading the league in innings pitched (233.2), strikeouts (230), and games started (33). He’d make the All Star Game and win the Cy Young Award, in a contest that was closer than the voting really showed. Dickey’s career had seen a resurgence once he arrived in New York before the 2010 season, something none could have predicted.
Dickey was slated to earn just $5 Million for the 2013 season, a sum that should have been easy to work into the budget for a New York based team and payroll, but the potential return in dealing him when a contract extension could not be completed was just too much to ignore. New York has been discussing possible deals with a handful of organizations in the past few weeks, with some of their requests becoming public knowledge. Prospects such as Wil Myers, Nick Castellanos, Jackie Bradley, and Xander Bogaerts all were names that came up in these talks, according to various reports. The requests, to some, appeared a little outrageous at times. Two top prospects for a 38 year pitcher? That’s a steep price to swallow but ultimately the very price Toronto agreed to pay.
New York reportedly didn’t offer Dickey more than a two year, $20 Million contract extension before agreeing to deal him to Toronto. The Blue Jays agreed to give him a two year, $25 Million deal on top of what he was already under contract for this coming season, with a team option for 2016 that could be worth an additional $12 Million. He’ll round out what could be a solid rotation in Toronto this coming season – a group that could look like Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and Ricky Romero. Toronto paid a steep price for the group, of course, parting with four of their top five prospects between their trade last month with Miami (in which they parted with Justin Nicolino and Jake Marisnick) and this one for Dickey. New York may have won this deal by acquiring d’Arnaud and Syndergaard, but we may not know the true results for a few years.