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R.A. Dickey's storybook career is over in New York, but is just beginning in Toronto
            The Blue Jays added to their already impressive offseason haul by trading for the reigning National League Cy Young winner, R.A. Dickey. This blockbuster sent Dickey, his personal knuckleball catcher, Josh Thole, and minor leaguer Mike Nickeas for Jay's top prospect Travis d'Arnaud, catcher John Buck, minor league starter Noah Syndergaard, and minor league outfielder Wuilmer Becerra. In addition to his 2013 bargain of a salary ($5 million), Dickey signed a two year, $24 million extension that will keep him in Toronto till 2015, his age 40 season.

            Contrary to popular belief, R.A. Dickey has emerged as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball over the past several seasons. Although 2012 was clearly his best season (career bests in W, ERA, IP, BB/9, K/9, and ERA+), Dickey has consistently been a well above average pitcher during his tenure with the Mets. For nonbelievers, let's play a little game with two sets of numbers compiled over the past three seasons; one belongs to Dickey and the other belongs to an "elite" starting pitcher:

Pitcher 1: 2.95 ERA, 616.2 Innings, 129 ERA+, 2.2 BB/9, 6.8 K/9, 12.1 WAR

Pitcher 2: 2.93 ERA, 644 Innings,  130 ERA+, 2.8 BB/9, 8.5 K/9, 13.2 WAR

Clearly, these pitchers are pretty similar except for  the difference in strikeouts; however, their repertoires could not be any different. One survives with the impulsive and unpredictable nature of the knuckleball and the other dominates with a mid-90's heat and sharp, near untouchable, slider. Pitcher 1 is R.A. Dickey. Pitcher 2 is his American League counterpart for the Cy Young, David Price. Price gains more acclaim due to his first overall pick pedigree and talented fastball, but Dickey has been just as successful over the past three seasons. Dickey is not some one-hit wonder or guy that got lucky for one season. He is a legitimate ace and should be in the discussion for among the top ten pitchers in baseball. Despite Dickey's advanced age, knuckleballers have shown the normal laws of pitching aging do not apply to their limited fraternity. Seen from the likes of Tim Wakefield (pitched till 44), Phil Niekro (48), Hoyt Wilhelm (49, albeit as a reliever), pitching well into your 40's as a knuckleballer is far from uncharted territory. In fact, many of these pitchers had remarkable success in the later stages of their career. Dickey adds a legitimate #1 starter to a team that had a hard time just getting innings from their starters, and in my opinion, puts their potential rotation as the best in the AL East.

            Even though the Mets are losing a 20 game winner, that is not to say the Mets did poorly in this trade.  In fact, they added a serious influx of talent that should vastly improve their team in the upcoming years. The centerpiece of this trade is 23 year old catcher, Travis d'Arnaud (pronounced dar-no), who is coming off a superb season in triple-A. This past season he hit .333/.380/.595 with 16 home runs in hitter-paradise Las Vegas. Although highly regarded for his offensive talents, d'Arnaud also possesses a strong arm and is rapidly improving behind the plate with a chance to be a league average defender. One possible cause for concern, however, was his extreme BABIP in AAA (.374) which could have portrayed his numbers being better than advertised. Additionally, his season was cut short after suffering a torn PCL in his left knee and has faced injury concerns in the past. However, it seems as though d'Arnaud is completely healed with a chance to be the Met's Opening Day catcher. Even with his injury and minor league transition concerns, d'Arnaud's special bat from behind the plate gives him the potential to be an annual all-star talent.

            The other big piece heading to Queens is gifted prep right hander, Noah Syndergaard.  Syndergaard dominated in high-A Lansing with a 2.60 ERA, a 2.7 walks per nine rate, and a sterling 10.6 K/9. Syndergaard possesses a sinking fastball that routinely sits in the mid to upper 90's and features a plus curveball as well. Undoubtedly, Syndergaard is a talented arm, but remains years away from reaching his potential and comes with the inherent risk of being a minor league pitching prospect. If everything clicks, Syndergaard could be a strong number two starter, with occasional flashes of brilliance with his dominant arsenal.

First Impressions:

Winners: Blue Jays, Mets

            The Blue Jays added a starter that further legitimizes their chances as an American League contender. In addition to the overall benefit of adding a CY winner, the Jays are capitalizing on a rare window of opportunity in the AL East, with the aging of the Yankees, the incompetence of the Red Sox, and the questions surrounding both the Rays and Orioles. Also, Dickey is as safe a bet for a 38 year old due to his repertoire that should keep him successful to the end of his contract. The collective improvements to the team this offseason makes the Jays a real contender for the American League pennant. 

            The Mets, although not as far away as some may think, added serious talent to a system devoid of quality position prospects. D'Arnaud is deservedly one of the best catching prospects in the minors, and his complete package is just so rare nowadays behind the plate. Furthermore, Syndergaard represents another potential stud in the rotation (to go along with a potentially scary rotation of Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Jon Niese). Despite the fact that it will take some time for him to get there, his talent alone is worth the gamble for a team that would not have had much of a purpose for a 38 year old knuckleballer.

Explanation:   

            One week ago, I criticized the Royals for trading prospects in exchange for an above average starter, all in the name of "going for it." Now, I'm praising the Jays for doing the same thing? Call me a hypocrite if you like, but there are several key differences between this trade and the Shields one. For one, the Jays are just much closer to reaching their goal of the postseason than the Royals. Just look at the rotations, even without any numbers, and see which you would have more confidence in:

Royals: James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Bruce Chen, Ervin Santana, Wade Davis

Blue Jays: R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero

Personally, it is not even close, as I am way in favor of the Jays' rotation. Even the offenses do not compare as seen in last year's numbers alone. Toronto's offense rated at about average while KC's was among the league's worst. Last I checked, the Royals did not do anything to improve in this regard while the Blue Jays added Melky Cabrera, Jose Reyes, and Emilio Bonifacio. That is also without mentioning a healthy Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie. Second, although all prospects carry an inherent risk, to me Myers' unblemished injury history and more legitimate minor league numbers give me more confidence in his future success than d'Arnaud. Mortgaging the future for a mediocre present is not how ballclubs should be run. If the Royals were to pull off a trade to further legitimize their playoff chances, that might change my opinion of the Shields-Myers swap. But for now, that trade was poorly executed, and this trade exemplified how to build a club up from rags to riches. 

BY: AIDAN FLYNN
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Obligatory R.A. Dickey knuckleball
 


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