Why are the Mets reverse-negotiating with R.A. Dickey? Oh, right.

Sandy Alderson. (Photo via mlb.com.)
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Hot-stove ace Ken Rosenthal reports that the weeks-long effort of the New York Mets to appear interested in re-signing R.A. Dickey is a farce.

This doesn't come as a surprise to those of us who suspected as much all along, despite the public declaration from general manager Sandy Alderson last month that the team intended to keep Dickey beyond the end of his current contract, which runs through 2013.

Rosenthal writes:

I already can hear the New York Mets’ spin on right-hander R.A. Dickey now — the tried and true “Greedy Ballplayer” theory.

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Dickey, the Mets will say, wanted too much in a contract extension, so the team traded him rather than get suckered into a bad deal.

Such a portrayal simply would not be accurate.

The Mets, sources say, have shown little actual interest in negotiating with Dickey, who is under contract for next season at $5 million.

Instead, they’re discussing him in trades at the GM meetings. If they get the right deal, they will just move on.

Trading Dickey, 38, probably is the right thing for the Mets to do, considering all of their holes. But the Mets intend to pin this on Dickey, they first need to make him a substantial offer.

That, sources say, has not happened.

Remember, back on October 3, Alderson talked about the need for urgency in engaging in negotiations with Dickey and David Wright, whose contract also expires after 2013. The subsequent moves would be built around either retaining them both long-term, or trading them instead of losing them next winter for nothing. The reporting elsewhere ever since has indicated anything but urgency.

The picture is more complicated than it was during the team's faux pursuit of Jose Reyes. Alderson, in an effort to distinguish the David Wright talks, pointed out that the Mets were far more engaged with Wright than they ever were with Reyes (which unfortunately makes clear that his claims that the Mets made an effort to sign Reyes last year, or even had the money to do so, were misleading, too).

Regarding Dickey, Alderson painted a different picture than Rosenthal during a presser with reporters at the general managers' meeting Thursday.

"Well, we're trying to [re-sign him]. We'd love to retain him. Now, you know, the situations are a little bit different [compared with Wright]. The ages are a little bit different. So they're not identical situations. But we're still engaged there as well."

Alderson left the door open to trading Dickey, but described efforts to date as "our focus—almost exclusive focus—has been to try to re-sign him at this point."

Still, that comment ought to be view in the context of Alderson's other game attempts to put a good face on the situation the Mets' owners have put him in.

Dickey himself, for what it's worth, described the negotiations as progressing earlier this week. 

So either Ken Rosenthal, an excellent reporter with impeccable sources, got this one wrong, or Alderson is misleading Dickey, too.

Alderson played that game in bizarro fashion with Reyes, saying that retaining him was "a top priority" just a month before letting him sign with the Miami Marlins.

Why did Alderson do that back then, and why is he doing it now, when expressing interest only increases the leverage of the player he's ostensibly negotiating with?

Because, as Joel Sherman reiterated this week, "The Mets are still not on firm financial footing." As reported by Rich Sandomir last month, ownership is currently to borrow more against SNY to pay current expenses.

They don't have the money to negotiate in earnest, in other words, so Alderson is seizing a free opportunity to help the ownership save face. 

Either that or the team really means to do what it says. Would you buy that?