The Toronto Blue Jays have given their 2013 a rotation a huge lift by acquiring reining NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey in a blockbuster trade with the New York Mets earlier today. With Dickey only under contract for $5 million next season (a real bargain), Toronto is understandably adamant about signing the knuckleballer to an extension for the trade to become official. The parties will have a 72-hour window to come to an agreement, and it would be extremely surprising if it didn’t happen.
Dickey, 38, may have more left in him than his age would indicate, as knuckleball throwing hurlers are famous for being able to pitch longer than their flame-throwing counterparts. This goes double for Dickey, who has only logged a little over 1,000 innings in his big league career despite his advanced age — he may find that he has quite a bit left to offer in the next handful of seasons.
Since joining the Mets in 2010, Dickey has been a different pitcher; he’s gone 39-28 in that time period with a 2.95 ERA, striking out 6.8 batters per nine while walking just 2.2. Last season was easily his best to date, as he took a giant step forward in just about every category, most notably in his ability to get swings and misses: his K/9 rate rose to nearly a batter an inning in 2012, well up from his career rate of 6.3.
The former 18th overall pick in the 1996 amateur draft did have a little luck on his side, as he stranded an even 80.0% of base runners (far above the league average of around 72.0%) and featured a BABIP of just .275, but FanGraphs nonetheless valued his contributions highly enough to credit him with a 3.27 FIP and 4.6 WAR. As long as his recent improvements aren’t an anomaly, the Blue Jays will be getting a top-of-the-line starter to join Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero, and the recently acquired Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.
The other players involved in the trade have not officially announced, but the speculation is that this is a 4-for-3 deal that has the Mets also parting with Josh Thole and a prospect in exchange for Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, John Buck, and a prospect. While much of the trade will hinge on how well d’Arnaud and Syndergaard pan out in their major league careers, this is still an understandable move from Toronto’s standpoint. They’ve clearly shifted to all-in mode with the acquisition of Jose Reyes, Johnson, and Buehrle a month ago, and acquiring a pitcher like Dickey makes their rotation a force to be reckoned with. Furthermore, d’Arnaud has an extensive injury history and would not be as highly rated of a prospect if he were to move off the catcher position, a possibility that does exist.
In any case, Dickey is a huge acquisition for the Blue Jays, and until the other players in the trade are named officially, his value to the team is the only subject that can safely be discussed without getting ahead of ourselves.