Over the last couple of days, the R.A. Dickey trade market has been narrowed down from several suitors to the suddenly relevant Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays already threw their hat into the ring by completing a mega-deal with the Marlins that netted them Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and others; now they seem to be going for the throat by attempting to add the 2012 NL Cy Young award winner.
Dickey has been the hottest name in baseball when it comes to rumored trades, and he is an extremely interesting target for teams wanting to add an impact starting pitcher. Then again, most everything about Dickey is interesting. He’s a 38-year-old who just so happens to thrive with a knuckle ball. He spent his entire Major League career from 2001 to 2009 as a relative nobody, bouncing around between the Rangers, Brewers, Mariners, and Twins before finding a home with the Mets.
But then something changed. Dickey started generating tons of ground balls, stopped walking anyone, and put together a pair of nice seasons in 2010 and 2011. Those two seasons featured 383 innings authored by the 6’2″ right-hander, and he managed an eye-popping 3.08 ERA and 2.3 BB/9 rate in them. As nice as Dickey’s late-career run looked, there were still reasons to doubt his ability to keep up his newly-established pace; after all, he wasn’t missing bats. and who really knows what to expect from a guy who relies so heavily on a knuckler?
That all changed went Dickey went nuts on the National League in 2012, putting up a 2.73 ERA, leading the league in innings pitched and strikeouts, and of course taking home what was most certainly his first Cy Young trophy. There will always be at least a bit of skepticism surrounding Dickey because of the methods he uses to succeed, but with two good seasons and one great one in the last three, he has to be considered one of the better pitchers in the game at this point whether anyone is comfortable with it or not. He seems like a good bet to make whatever team has him in uniform proud even if his next season looks more like 2011 than 2012. Add in the fact that Dickey is only slated to make $5 million in 2013, and you have a tantalizing trade chip.
With the Blue Jays set to pick up Dickey in a package centering around top prospect Travis d’Arnaud (.333/.380/.595 for AAA Las Vegas in 2012) if a trade gets finalized, he could make a huge difference for a Toronto team that seems on the cusp of contending for the first time in forever. Dickey would join new acquisitions Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, and Ricky Romero in a rotation that is simply brimming with talent and potential. There is certainly risk to be found throughout the rotation, but there’s also a whole lot to like.
Johnson, when healthy, is one of the best pitchers in baseball. He’s had his share of injury concerns, but he bounced back well in 2012 even if he didn’t put up the lights-out season many expected. Johnson was still good for 191 1/3 innings of 3.40 FIP ball, and he was worth 3.8 WAR in the process. That WAR figure tied him for 20th in all of baseball among starting pitchers, even with guys like Matt Cain and Anibal Sanchez. Buehrle, Johnson’s former Miami teammate, is a different sort of pitcher, a consistent mid-rotation cog made to eat up innings, limit walks, and provide stealth value. He’s dependable and really helps solidify a rotation with so many high-impact, high-risk arms.
Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero are different in that they have, in a sense, proven themselves to be lottery tickets. Morrow is already very good despite his reputation as a work in progress, he just hasn’t been able to keep himself away from the disabled list. He’s only 28, and his third-straight quality season was limited to just 124 2/3 innings in 2012. Morrow has proven he can miss bats with the best of them (career 9.63 K/9 rate), and his walk rate in 2012 was down to 2.9/9 from his career mark of 4.2/9. If he stays unbroken, Morrow will join Johnson as one of the best starters in either league once again.
Romero is still just 28 and had three very good seasons under his belt before dropping his strikeout rate and forgetting where the strike zone was in 2012. Romero’s career BB/9 rate was an acceptable 3.5 going into last season, so it wasn’t expected that he would suddenly lead the league in walks (105) and post a BB/9 rate of 5.2. He’s certainly still young enough to turn things around again, but his leash will almost certainly be a lot shorter going forward.
The exciting thing about this 2013 Blue Jays rotation is that there are no dead ends in the bunch. If Dickey becomes a Blue Jay, he joins Johnson and Morrow to form an extremely formidable front three if everyone stays healthy. Buehrle represents the anchor of the staff, while a resurgent Romero could mean there isn’t a single weak link in the chain. The Blue Jays have a chance to do something special next season, and R.A. Dickey could go a long way toward helping the team’s rotation be one of the best in either league.