Blue Jays have added exclamation point with R.A. Dickey trade: Griffin
A horsehide cone of silence had seemed to descend over final day of negotiations between the Blue Jays and their highly-coveted Mets' righthander R.A. Dickey, as the two sides struggled to reach agreement on a two-year extension that would then make official a seven-player trade that had been rumoured between the two clubs since Friday. It is believed the blockbuster, multi-player trade will be announced as early as Monday night.
The trade will see Dickey, catcher Josh Thole and a prospect come to the Jays for an attractive package that includes Top 5 organization prospects catcher Travis d'Arnaud and righthander Noah Syndergaard, major-league catcher John Buck and a third prospect.
The delay in making the announcement was that the going-for-it-now Jays were given 72 hours to reach agreement on an extension, with the knuckleballing 38-year-old Cy Young Award winner. That negotiating window closes at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, according to Foxsports.com's Ken Rosenthal who was the first to report that the specifics of the deal had been agreed to, on Saturday afternoon.
Sources report they likely will not need the deadline.
As reflected in his hands-on style, Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos prefers to meet players face-to-face whenever an important crossroads arrives. Anthopoulos is believed to have met with Dickey at his home. Reportedly, the Jays have been able to agree on the extension with Dickey, likely for more than the $26 million, two years, he had been seeking from the Mets, but still a bargain for three years compared to recent free agents Anibal Sanchez, Zack Greinke and, assuming Dickey's higher expected return, than Ryan Dempster.
Dickey would join a Blue Jays rotation that includes holdovers, Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero, plus newcomers from an earlier blockbuster with the Marlins, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson. The odd man out would be lefthander J.A. Happ, who would become a swingman in a deep, hard-throwing bullpen, filling the role of Carlos Villanueva. The Jays' goal is to have a major-league capable inventory of eight starting pitchers. Happ is No. 6.
Dickey became the third Mets pitcher to win a Cy Young Award, joining Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden. At 37-years-old when the 2012 season ended, he was the third oldest to capture Cy, following Roger Clemens, 42, of the Yankees and Gaylord Perry, 40, of the Padres. He would become the fourth Cy Young winner to be traded before his next season. The others were David Cone to the Jays from the Royals in '95, Pedro Martinez to the Red Sox from the Expos in '98 and Roger Clemens from the Jays to the Yankees in '99.
Dickey was not a one-hit wonder. For his three seasons since joining the Mets in 2010, his performance and his statistics have improved each season as he learned to harness his two speeds of knuckleball, mixing it with a mid-80s fastball and a changeup that keeps hitters guessing. But his bread-and-butter is the knuckleball.
The Mets, in October, had already picked up a very reasonable club option of $5 million for 2013 and had been hoping to extend him further with an offer of $20 million for two more years, through 2015. It was, then, at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, that negotiations became truly intense.
Dickey, a free-spirit with an eclectic past, was asking the Mets for $26 million for two seasons that would have added up to $31 million for the next three seasons. That seems reasonable, but was too rich for the rebuilding Mets. They extended David Wright and have control of the face of the franchise for eight years, but Dickey's prime is now.
The Jays, for their part, have been loading up for a run that will extend at least three years, the length of Jose Bautista's remaining contract, along with Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and others. Syndergaard, 20, would not have fit into that window.
The Mets have stuck to their guns and other GM's were invited to make their best offer. The Jays' farm system is deep in pitching prospects. D'Arnaud was a valued piece of their future, but now that falls to incumbent J.P. Arencibia who has embraced Toronto and is under control for at least the next four seasons.
Face it, even with the knuckleballer winning 20 games in 2012, the Mets won just 74 games and have many significant holes to fill. GM Sandy Alderson, who was the architect of the A's in the late '80s, the man behind the curtain for Moneyball, let it be known that Dickey was available for the proper combination of prospects. The Jays, Rangers, O's and Angels are believed to have showed interest. But, a Dickey extension was always the key.
The Blue Jays' aggressive young GM Anthopoulos prides himself on never chasing a dream with money that he had not planned on spending. When the Jays were finalists for young Cuban defector, Aroldis Chapman, Anthopoulos had the go-ahead to make the deal with the 20-year-old lefthander with the 100 m.p.h. fastball. But when the Reds upped the bonus ante at the last minute, he told Jays' ownership that despite the green light, he was out.
Sources are now saying that negotiations with Dickey have ended successfully at an affordable rate and that the next step before an announcement can be made is for Jays' medical staff to examine the righthander at their spring training headquarters in Florida.
The 23-year-old d'Arnaud, was the key player for the Mets as the centrepiece of the trade, accompanied by highly regarded righthander Syndergaard, the second of the A-Lansing Big-3 to be traded this winter. Lefthander Justin Nicolino was dealt to the Marlins in the 12-man November blockbuster. Both prospects were rated among the Top 5 in the Jays' farm system. D'Arnaud is seen as a major-league starter sometime in 2013. The Jays remain deep in minor-league starting pitchers and have managed to hang onto righthander Aaron Sanchez, who may be the best of the highly touted Lugnut trio.
Spring training will have a different feel when Jays' camp opens in 57 days.