2:55 pm Dec. 10, 20121
As the standoff between R.A. Dickey and the New York Mets pushes deeper into December, past the winter meetings and with an absence of other moves to improve what was a 74-win team in 2012, the Mets continue to insist they have no bad options regarding Dickey.
If Dickey comes down from his current contract demands, they claim, they will sign him. If they receive a great offer for him via trade, they will deal him. And if neither occurs, they'll simply let him play out his 2013 option, utilizing the reigning Cy Young Award winner for $5 million.
Only the first two options make any sense. The Mets, with each passing day, seem less likely to add the requisite pieces to be a competitive major league team in 2013. They have no outfield; they have no catcher; they have no bullpen; they have no depth.
These are not small things.
So keeping Dickey around until they do acquire these things, or trading him to help get them, would seem like the only real answers here. Related: The ownership group's dire need for money, which they would get more of through ticket sales in 2013 by keeping Dickey, appears to be the only real argument for keeping him without an extension.
It's not clear why the Mets aren't signing Dickey to the extension he's currently asking for. As has been publicly established now in multiple reports, Dickey is asking for another two years above his $5 million option for 2013, at around $26 million. The total would be three years, $31 million for the reigning Cy Young Award winner. Yes, he is 38; he also throws a low-stress pitch, has been remarkably durable, and knuckleballers tend to peak around this time. There's roughly as much data supporting the idea that he'll maintain his 2010-12 level of performance as there is that he'll be sidelined.
But keep in mind, Zach Greinke just signed a six-year, $147 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers following a 2012 season less impressive than Dickey's. Yes, Greinke is only 29, and he also pitched fewer innings over the past three years than Dickey, with Dickey holding a 129-106 edge in E.R.A.+. And Dickey is asking to play the next three years at a total only marginally larger than what Greinke will make in each of the next six seasons.
The trade discussions are problematic, too. The Mets coveted Wil Myers of the Kansas City Royals, and understandably so: Myers is an elite offensive prospect who plays the outfield. He's also on his way to the Tampa Bay Rays, who netted him in a deal for their own pitcher on the block, James Shields.
That leaves teams like the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers in pursuit of Dickey. The Mets are hoping to pry Travis D'Arnaud, a tremendous catching prospect, from the Blue Jays, and packages built around the less-impressive catcher J.P. Arencibia seem to be the response as of now.
The talk all weekend, instead, was about the possibility of the Rangers sending prospect Mike Olt to the Mets as the center of a Dickey deal. According to the Daily News, that isn't enough for the Mets.
It shouldn't really be the centerpiece for the Mets, either. Olt has value. He's a strong bat who plays great defense at a hard-to-fill position, third base. He's blocked by Adrian Beltre in Texas, so it would make sense for the Rangers to deal him.
Just not to the Mets. He's blocked by the one major signing the Mets made this offseason, David Wright. Sure, the talk about moving him to the outfield is fine, in the abstract. But no one knows if he'll transition well to, say, right field, or how much of his value will be compromised there. Even if he manages to play right field as well as he plays third base, which is a best-case scenario, just the difference in position scarcity will drive down his value.
It would not make sense to wait on all other moves until completing deals with Wright and Dickey this offseason, and managing to turn that process into a surplus at third base with no other areas addressed. (Which is not to say the Mets won't do it.)
If the only two options are acquiring Olt, or an Olt-based package, and signing Dickey, the Mets should sign Dickey.
They have a front office well aware of Dickey's value, and what other pitchers are getting. So the fact that Dickey hasn't been signed yet for his reasonable demands suggests that the Mets aren't entertaining any good options at all.