At 38 years old, Dickey is coming off of the best statistical season of his career, and he even won the National League Cy Young Award. He did this in the same year in which he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, was profiled in a documentary film and published a New York Times best-selling biography.
All of this, while under a moderate salary by the New York Mets. Mets fan embrace him, and many would love to see him back at Citi Field in 2013.
“It’s incredible enough that a New York Mets pitcher won 20 games,” said comedian Jon Stewart, who interviewed Dickey on The Daily Show earlier this week.
“But you won the Cy Young Award. And you did it when you were 38 years old, mastering it with a pitch that so few can master that they made a documentary about the six or seven of you who were able to pitch professionally at that level with that pitch.”
Dickey (20-6, 2.73 ERA, 8.86 K/9) has a contract scheduled to expire after the 2013 season, and is expected to make $5 million in the upcoming season.
“How will the Mets screw this up?” Stewart asked, to a chuckle of the New Yorkers in the audience of his broadcast.
The answer is simple. At 38 years old, Dickey wants a contract extension so he will know where he play over the next few years and not have to deal with free agency during a contract year. And the Mets may not give it to him.
“When you sign an extension, you help yourself. You put yourself in a position to lessen the risk forthcoming of injury or what have you,” Dickey explained at a community service appearance in Harlem.
But the Mets aren’t sure the money is right.
Dickey would allegedly accept something slightly less than Jake Peavy’s (11-12, 3.37 ERA, 219 IP, 194 K) two-year, $29 million deal on top of his $5 million option for 2013.
According to The Daily News, the Mets have heard that Dickey would even agree to a two-year extension at approximately $13 million per season, starting after he is paid his scheduled $5 million next season.
"In terms of years and structure, we're agreeable on multiple structures," said Dickey’s agent, Bo McKinnis, according to Newsday. "Sandy has been good about that. It's just a matter of getting the dollars right."
The Mets are more interested in a two-year, $20 million deal, according to Jon Heyman.
If the Mets can’t agree on a deal with the pitcher, however, they would be comfortable trading him for more value.
“I’m a long-time Mets fan, and it creates a dilemma. We want you to be good, but not so good that they sell you on the open market,” Stewart explained.
After such an impressive season, it would only make sense that many clubs would express interest.
As of right now, it seems as if Zack Greinke is deciding between the Dodgers and the Rangers. Whoever gets spurned may want to increase their offer for Dickey. James Shields could get dealt to the Dodgers or Rangers as well, which would also affect Dickey’s value.
The Daily News reported that the Dodgers offered No. 1 overall prospect Zach Lee and Dee Gordon for Shields. And Heyman reports that the New York Mets want Texas to deal for Dickey, but appear to be asking for too much.
There are other teams involved and interested in Dickey, including the Boston Red Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays. The Washington Nationals and New York Yankees are considered to be out of the race after initial interest.
Numerous deals have been offered for Dickey, including “one acceptable offer” according to The Daily News. This surely has given Sandy Alderson and the front office of the New York Mets a very accurate gauge of the value that the star would bring in for the franchise.
Eight teams interested, and a total of one acceptable offer? Perhaps it may be better to just try to sign Dickey to that extension now that the Winter Meetings are over, New York.
"I'm optimistic we can get something done with them," McKinnis told Newsday. "But we understand that if it's in their best interest to move us. We're prepared, and we understand."
Dickey would be just the third person to be traded after winning the Cy Young Award.
“I enjoy being here, and I want to be a part of this place seeing brighter days," continued Dickey, according to ESPN.
The Mets just signed Wright to eight-year, $138 million contract, and with a young and emerging pitching staff, the team could see a rebound of success in the coming few seasons.
Thankfully for fans of the New York Mets, the club has seemingly similar interests in retaining Dickey. There may be an issue with money, but the hope is to keep Dickey in a Mets uniform.
"The sentiment that we've had from the beginning I think remains the same," Alderson told The Daily News. "We'd like to have him in New York."
As contract discussion begin to liven up, it has become clear what the Mets should do. If they do not get the “difference-maker” that they seek, it may be time for them to ink him up over the next few years.
The contract obligations that Dickey is asking for are not absurd; $13 million a season is less than what Jake Peavy just signed for, and Peavy had nine fewer wins and twice as many losses as Dickey had last season.
"I think the Mets are going to sign him," said one executive with a club who has been trying to trade for R.A. Dickey, tweeted Jon Morosi.
If the Mets sign him, expect the contract to sign for approximately $25 million to $30 million over a two-year extension.
For Dickey, expect this roller coaster of a winter to end. Considering the Mets have not pulled the trigger on a trade yet on a series of underwhelming offers, it’s time to ignore the fact that Dickey is 38 years old and allow him to sign an extension already.
Of course, this is nothing new for Dickey.
“It’s almost poetic the way that I’ve embraced a knuckleball and the way my career trajectory has been almost knuckleball-ish,” Dickey told Stewart.
Some may not be convinced that signing a 38-year-old knuckleballer to a nearly $30 million extension is the right call.
But R.A. Dickey is not like other knuckleballers. He’s mastered the art of the pitch, and throws it 10 to 15 MPH faster than anyone else who has ever thrown that particular pitch.
And he used it to rampant success last year.
The Rising Apple calls him 27 years old in knuckleball years because he’s been throwing the pitch for only five years, and there’s certainly some validity in that statement.
He’s still in the infancy to this pitching style, and the knuckleball historically doesn’t do the damage to the arm that any other pitch might.
In this graph from Beyond The Box Score, Dickey’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is compared to the “Average Great Knuckleballer,” including Phil Niekro, Joe Niekro, Charlie Hough, Wilbur Wood and Tim Wakefield.
According this graph, the “Average Great Knuckleballer” was able to produce WARs above 3.0 until approximately their eighth season as a knuckleballer. For comparison, Madison Bumgarner recorded a 3.4 WAR and Matt Cain recorded a 3.8 WAR in 2012.
Dickey’s eighth season a knuckleballer would fall exactly when his contract extension would expire. He would be 41.
Tim Wakefield, the most recent knuckleballer in MLB, retired at 44 years old. At 41 years old, he won 17 games. Joe Niekro retired at 43. Charlie Hough retired at 46. Phil Niekro threw as a knuckleballer in the majors until he was 48 years old.
“Sports brings a good combination of luck and skill,” explained Nate Silver to Bill Simmons. “You know there’s only a 5 percent chance when a No. 15 seed beats a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. But it’s still a lot of fun when that happens.”
Is it absurd to think that I want the desperately want the Mets to sign a 38-year-old knuckleballer without a ligament in his elbow to a contract extension, rather than trading him for some of the top prospects in baseball?
Probably. But it’s still a lot of fun. And I know that for the next few years, R.A. Dickey is going to continue to produce at an elite level. And like Jon Stewart, I want to see him do that while wearing a New York Mets jersey.
I have absolute confidence that he can pitch for as long as he wants to. Let’s not forget less than ten years ago, Roger Clemens won a Cy Young Award at 42 years old. I think R.A. Dickey may be able to challenge that record in a few years.
“I have no UCL in my right elbow, so that coupled with being a knuckleballer,” Dickey told Stweart. “I should be able to pitch until I’m 70 or 80, probably.”
Bryan Kalbrosky is a Featured Columnist for the New York Mets. Follow him on Twitter for more of his stories and adventures. Follow @BryanKalbrosky