11:21 am Dec. 5, 20125
The Mets' negotiations with R.A. Dickey appear to be stalled.
As it stands now, they're reluctant to meet Dickey's demands, which are reportedly two years, $26 million on top of his 2013 salary of $5 million. A three-year, $31 million commitment to Dickey is certainly within the range of reasonable by current market standards, if not a discount. But for reasons of either caution of financial limitations, the Mets aren't ready to do it.
Meanwhile, their attempts to engage other teams in trade talks for Dickey have yet to produce a deal good enough for Sandy Alderson to pull the trigger on.
As of now, for instance, the Kansas City Royals have ruled out dealing uber-prospect Wil Myers for Dickey. And the Toronto Blue Jays are willing to give up a package headed by J.P. Arencibia, which is decidedly not enough to entice the Mets.
That the Blue Jays want Dickey is interesting, however. And there is a deal that might work for both sides. It fits the framework of each roster, and would in a single stroke, produce a winter of public relations glory for the Mets otherwise unimaginable, given their straitened financial state.
The Mets would trade R.A. Dickey and Ruben Tejada to the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays would trade Jose Reyes and J.P. Arencibia to the Mets.
First, from the Mets' perspective: there's been talk from both inside the organization and out about throwing away 2013, with 2014 the real target. And for good reason: the team has an extremely limited capacity to add salary and there isn't nearly enough offense on hand to contend next season.
But exactly what will be different in 2014? Sure, there's more money to spend, hypothetically, but there's also another very poor free agent class in the wings. The team lacks any real impact bats that are a year away, save Wilmer Flores, whose best position is, in all likelihood ... third base.
And there's almost no one on this team likelier to be better in 2014 than 2013, while many members could be worse, or more expensive, or both.
The team just committed $138 million to David Wright. He turns 30 this month, so there's no time like the present for him. His decline may be a way off, but 2013 is likelier to be a great Wright year than 2014, 2014 a better bet than 2015, and so on.
And a closer look at the assets under Mets control reveals a similar reality. Ike Davis turns 26 in March; Daniel Murphy turns 28 in April; Dillon Gee turns 27 in April; Bobby Parnell, the team's best reliever last year, turned 28 in September, and Jon Niese turned 26 in October. Their primes are now. Johan Santana, who turns 34 in March, is in the final season of his contract in 2013.
Only Matt Harvey, whose 10 starts in 2012 sure indicated he's ready to contribute now, and Zack Wheeler, a pitching prospect yet to master Triple-A, are key assets with a good chance to be any better in 2014 than they are now.
And the dirty secret about the Mets' farm system is that there isn't just a scarcity of impact bats a year away; other than Wheeler, the same is true of the pitching prospects, with 2015 a more realistic arrival date for most, and few prospects capable of immediately thriving as Harvey has.
This core almost certainly isn't enough to contend, without help. But the flip side is, that same core will be in need of a rebuild itself in a few years anyway, if not properly augmented.
Dealing Dickey clears $5 million in salary for the 2013 team. The team's pursuit of an outfield is relying on money Wright deferred, along with the $10 million in deferred money they received in the deal to buy out Jason Bay.
Even clearing Dickey's money off the books, it is awfully hard to see how the Mets can dramatically upgrade their outfield offense, considering that lesser lights such as Ryan Ludwick (two years, $14 million) and Melky Cabrera (two years, $16 million) are both more expensive than ever, and also off the board.
Adding Reyes would give the Mets another impact hitter, a dramatic upgrade over Ruben Tejada. Anyone who sees Tejada (90 O.P.S.+ in 2012, 86 career) as close to Reyes (111 O.P.S.+ in 2012, 107 career) is probably just trying to justify the financially imposed decision on the Mets to let Reyes go last winter.
Reyes even fits the Mets financially. Thanks to the Marlins' decision to backload his contract, Reyes makes on $10 million in 2013, and $16 million in 2014, before rising to $22 million in 2015 and 2016. (Of the $10 million due in 2013, $3 million is paid by Marlins, so his cost in 2013 to Mets would be $7 million.)
Nor would it be hard to imagine Reyes happy to return to New York, where he never wanted to leave and still lives in the offseason, while avoiding subjecting his legs to 81 home games a year on Toronto's artificial turf. (That's risk the Blue Jays would probably want to avoid, too.)
As for Arencibia, he is not impressive enough to warrant being the centerpiece of a Dickey deal. But he can absolutely help the Mets. He posted O.P.S.+ numbers of 91 and 89 the past two years, but with plenty of power. And the only incumbent catcher, Josh Thole, just completed a season with an O.P.S.+ of 63. If Thole regains his pre-2012 form, he and Arencibia would make a potent platoon, with Thole previously hitting righties well, and Arencibia somewhat more effective against lefties. If Thole doesn't, Arencibia hits righties well enough to be a perfectly usable starting catcher, and better yet, is still another year away from arbitration, and under four more seasons of team control.
Moreover, the two fit well in the team's age window. Arencibia will turn 27 in January; Jose Reyes won't be 30 until June.
And while losing Dickey will sting both on the field and off, if the Mets aren't willing to bring him back anyway, he wasn't going to help the 2014 team. Reyes, at 31, and Arencibia, at 28, should be quite able to assist the Mets in 2014.
It's then up to Sandy Alderson to cobble together an outfield. But he'll have an upgraded shortstop, and regular catcher, as he attempts to do it. He'll have Wilmer Flores, a year closer to the major leagues and some prospects, at least theoretically having made the leap to Double-A, to trade. He'll have whatever portion of the cleared payroll the Wilpons can afford to put back into the baseball team. And he'll have a rotation of Niese/Gee/Harvey/Wheeler to work from.
And why would the Blue Jays do this?
Tejada, who turned just 23 in October, offers both a credible shortstop for the Blue Jays to play now on a roster set to win today, and possible upside development alongside third baseman Brett Lawrie (who turns 23 in January) and catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud (24 in February, and the player who makes Arencibia expendable) for years to come. Dickey, obviously, gives them an ace to put atop an already strong rotation with Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero.
To be clear, this is not a rumor, let alone an imminent trade. It is merely a suggestion. But would mitigate the practical and emotional impact of losing Dickey by returning the franchise's best-ever homegrown shortsstop to his rightful place alongside Wright.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
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Jeff Keppinger is a Yankee target, along with five other teams.
Deron Williams was brilliant, but the Brook Lopez-less Nets lost to Oklahoma City, 117-111.
Mark Sanchez is your starting quarterback, for now.
St. John's lost a disappointing game to San Francisco, 81-65.