In one of the most significant gambles in recent franchise history, the Mets have agreed to trade National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays in a seven-player deal, according to reports.
FOXSports.com was the first to report that the Mets reached agreement Sunday on a deal to trade Dickey, if he and the Jays can agree to a contract extension before a 2 p.m. ET deadline Tuesday. The New York Post reported that the deal will also send catcher Josh Thole and a prospect to Toronto for catchers Travis d'Arnaud and John Buck, right-handed pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard and a third prospect.
If Dickey successfully negotiates an extension, he will become the seventh Cy Young Award winner to open the following season with a new team and the fourth to leave via trade. The most recent example came more than a decade ago with the Jays on the opposite end of a deal, sending Roger Clemens to the Yankees prior to the 1999 season.
d'Arnaud, 23, has long ranked among the top young talents in baseball, clocking in at No. 11 onMLB.com's 2012 Prospect Watch. He is used to this sort of deal; the Jays acquired him from the Phillies in 2009 for another Cy Young Award-winner, Roy Halladay. Batting .333 with 16 homers in 67 games at Triple-A Las Vegas, d'Arnaud might have made his Major League debut already had he not torn a left knee ligament in June, ending his season.
Buck, 32, has seen his production tail off significantly since he bashed a career-high 20 homers with the Jays in 2010. He played last season with the Marlins, but returned to Toronto in the trade that sent Jose Reyes north of the border.
Syndergaard, 20, posted a 2.60 ERA with 122 strikeouts and 31 walks in 103 2/3 innings last season at Class A Lansing. The Jays' third-ranked player on MLB.com's Prospect Watch, he figures to slot into the Mets' rotation at high Class A St. Lucie, putting him on track for a big league debut in late 2014 or early '15.
The Jays, who earlier this offseason acquired Reyes, Buck, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Emilio Bonifacio in a megadeal with the Marlins, may also soon have the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner in their employ. Dickey finished 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA in 2012, leading the NL in innings, strikeouts, complete games and shutouts.
He also published his autobiography in March, detailing a story that by now is well-known. A former first-round Draft pick of the Rangers, Dickey saw his bonus money slashed when doctors discovered that he had no ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Thus began a decade-long slog through the Minor Leagues, prompting Dickey to become a full-time knuckleballer in 2005 in a last-ditch effort to save his career.
Five years later, after the Mets signed him to a Minor League deal and made him the first player cut from big league camp, Dickey caught his break. He joined the rotation in mid-May and never looked back, posting a 2.84 ERA over 27 appearances. At the end of the season, the Mets inked him to a two-year, $7 million extension with a $5 million option for 2013.
Dickey and the Mets negotiated another contract extension this winter, but the club always kept one eye trained on the trade market. The Rangers and Blue Jays seemed to be natural fits for Dickey given the profiles of their farm systems, while at least a half-dozen other clubs at least checked on the availability of the NL Cy Young Award winner.
With Dickey potentially gone, the Mets are looking at a significant hole in their rotation, which ranked among the best in baseball last season. Consensus at the Winter Meetings was that the team would not immediately plug that hole with top prospect Zack Wheeler, who owns just one year of experience above Class A ball. Instead, the Mets will likely turn to 23-year-old Jenrry Mejia, unless they acquire another starting pitcher on the free-agent market. The return of Mike Pelfrey is a possibility.
By season's end, the Mets could be looking at a rotation including Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee, the nucleus of a starting five for years to come.