10:05 am Dec. 17, 2012
The separation agreement between the New York Mets and R.A. Dickey is nearly finalized.
The Mets agreed to a seven-player deal with the Toronto Blue Jays that would send Dickey, catcher Josh Thole and an unnamed prospect to the Blue Jays. The Mets would receive catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud, pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard, catcher John Buck and another prospect.
The deal is contingent upon the Blue Jays and Dickey agreeing to a contract extension beyond Dickey's current one-year, $5 million contract in 2013. The two sides have until 2 p.m. Tuesday to accomplish it.
It's safe to say the Blue Jays have every intention of making it worth Dickey's while to sign such a deal, given how much work and talent they put into the effort of trading for him. Whether Dickey wants to play for the Blue Jays, and acquire the financial certainty that would come with an extension, will determine whether it happens.
In d'Arnaud, the Mets would receive arguably the best catching prospect in baseball, a plus defensive receiver with an elite bat who is virtually major league ready, having dominated at Double-A in 2011 and Triple-A in 2012. He did see his season end in June due to a knee injury, but is expected to be 100 percent by the spring.
The Mets have no real answer at the catching position, so going from a black hole to one of the most promising players in baseball at such a hard-to-fill position is a win by itself.
In Syndergaard, the Mets added another high-ceiling pitching prospect to a farm system with many of them, as prospect guru John Sickels' list of top 20 prospects reveals. Not to worry; the Mets won't have too many, that's not how the high-attrition world of pitching phenoms works. Instead, the inventory is precisely how a system produces a few arms worthy of major league attention, and Syndergaard has the chance to be as good as anyone.
That list is also informative in terms of determining when the Mets are likely to be good again. The current major league team is bereft of much of what makes for a winning team. The Mets, for instance, have zero starting-quality outfielders on the roster; pennant-winners, and even also-rans, customarily field three outfielders. The same is true at catcher, where Buck will stand as a placeholder for d'Arnaud, but still isn't a starting-quality player. The bullpen, a huge weakness last season, hasn't been improved at all. And the starting rotation is without its surest thing next year without Dickey, and lacks depth in case of injury.
Simply retaining Dickey would have helped the final problem, but none of the others. A major league team with financial resources could have fixed some of these problems via free agency, wouldn't have let the major league team fall into disrepair, and could have built around Dickey and the recently signed David Wright in the near-term.
But as we know, the Mets are not that team, with a debt load that almost guarantees they won't be anytime soon. And the limitations of a roster with Wright and Dickey, but little help for them, was apparent in 2012, when the Mets won 74 games.
This trade does raise a related question: If the window really is opening in 2015, not sooner, why was David Wright retained? He'll be 32 at the start of the 2015 season, likely exiting or having exited his prime. The Mets will be betting on Wright aging gracefully, instead of grabbing young, cost-controlled prospects with upside.
But the Mets had virtually no chance of contending sooner than 2015 either way, and the fans should applaud a Dickey deal that helps at least the next theoretically good Mets team.
This being the Mets, they've managed to take a decent amount of the focus on that fact and put it instead on an ill-advised attempt to slime Dickey on his way out the door.
This has put them in a largely untenable position if Dickey and the Blue Jays don't come to an agreement on an extension; everyone around baseball will recognize that the Mets will be forced to trade him anyway, as even the Mets acknowledge, and the team's return is likely to fall dramatically as a result.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
Jeremy Lin returns to Madison Square Garden Monday night, and the Knicks expect to have Carmelo Anthony back, too.
After a disastrous 34-0 loss to the Falcons Sunday, the Giants are in a three-way tie for the N.F.C. East.