Much of the talk around the Mets fan base in the wake of R.A. Dickey’s Cy Young win this week has been about his value and whether it would be best for the Mets to give Dickey a contract extension or trade him at what appears to be the peak of his value.
I’ve found myself on both ends of this discussion over the last few weeks. There was a time two weeks ago that I had pretty much resigned myself to the idea that R.A. had thrown his last pitch in a Mets uniform. But that was when I thought Dickey wanted a five-year deal and could command a top prospect.
That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. The more I look at it and hear about the modest expectations Dickey has for a new contract, as well as the level of player the Mets can get in return, I think extending him is the move the Mets have to make.
Today two reports came out about Dickey. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News noted that the Mets have made a two-year offer to Dickey and believe he will accept a two-year deal at the right price. Buster Olney of ESPN cited a source that Dickey wants north of $10-million a year and Martino tacked on that Dickey is looking for a deal comparable to the one Jake Peavy signed with the White Sox in October.
Two years and $29 million is pretty high, but I think it’s worth it and here’s why. Even if you do extend Dickey for a deal similar to Peavy’s the 2014 Mets rotation is a bargain as a whole. With Dickey still in the fold for 2013, you’re set with a rotation of Santana ($30.5 million), Dickey ($5 million), Jon Niese ($3 million), Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee on rookie deals and Zack Wheeler in the wings if injury strikes.
After the season, Santana’s albatross comes off the books. Dickey gets half of what Santana did this season, Niese is locked in at 5 million for 2014, Harvey and Wheeler will still be on rookie salaries and Gee will be in his first year of arbitration, putting his salary at 1-1.5 million at most. So the total cost of the Mets’ 2014 rotation will be about 22 million, or less than one Johan Santana. Pretty nice, right? That leaves plenty of money to build the rest of the team.
The argument here is, you have to spend on upper tier pitching at some point. If Dickey is traded, you might not need to fill that spot with a big-time pitcher in 2013, but once Johan comes off the books in 2014, you’re going to be right back in the market for a top-tier, big-money pitcher.
Who knows if you’ll be able to get a pitcher that can give you Dickey’s production at that price? Why not have that player be R.A. Dickey, a high-character guy who has proven he can do it and well with the Mets?
I’ve seen the argument that Dickey can’t possibly replicate his 2012 season and so the Mets should sell high. While that very much could be true, Dickey’s 2012 wasn’t exactly a flash in the plan. His wins went up, but his ERA was in line with his 2010 number. He got a lot more strikeouts, but that came in large part to the hybrid knuckleball he throws. It’s a pitch he’s continuing to evolve and R.A. is a smart, motivated guy, so there’s no real reason to believe that evolution will stop once he gets his money.
And limiting Dickey to a two-year extension would mean that his contract will expire in line with when Niese’s contract ramps up ($9 million in 2016), Harvey will be due a raise and Wheeler will be coming up on one. There should be some other pitchers further along in the pipeline (Michael Fulmer, for one) by that point, allowing you to redistribute your funds and keep a solid rotation intact.
This to me is very similar to the way the Tampa Bay Rays have done business with their pitching staff by retaining James Shields and gradually infusing players like Price, Hellickson and Moore.
The Mets have explored trading Dickey, which is wise. They should be doing the same with David Wright, whether they plan to trade him or not. Finding out what a player is worth to other teams can only assist in contract negotiations. But in my opinion Dickey has more value to the Mets than anyone else. Unless a team is willing to come in and offer a top-tier, can’t miss MLB ready player (looking at you Blue Jays/Travis D’ Arnaud), I don’t think parting with Dickey for some B-level prospects and bench pieces is a worthwhile endeavor.
The Mets should be building around their current rotation, not dismantling it and make no mistake, R.A. Dickey is the centerpiece of that rotation next year and for the next couple. Get him signed and build from there.