RA Dickey Trade: Vaults Jays into Pennant Contention or Ruins the Franchise?

Brad LeClairCorrespondent IDecember 16, 2012

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 5: R.A. Dickey #43 of the New York Mets throws to a St. Louis Cardinals batter at Busch Stadium on September 5, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Jeff Curry/Getty Images

The Toronto Blue Jays, if they manage to sign R.A. Dickey to a contract extension, will have completed yet another blockbuster trade this offseason and vaulted themselves into not only pennant contention, but World Series contention. The kind of buzz floating around Toronto for the Blue Jays has been unheard of since the "Glory Days" of 1992 and 1993 when the team took home back-to-back World Series titles.

The first trade this offseason, if you can't remember, was the monster 12-player deal that saw the Jays acquire top-three shortstop Jose Reyes, starters Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, catcher John Buck and utilityman extraordinaire Emilio Bonifacio, in exchange for Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez, Jeff Mathis and Adeiny Hechavarria, as well as prospects Jake Marisnick, Anthony DeSclafani and Justin Nicolino.

That trade, as large as it was, was put on hold by the commissioner and reviewed before it was eventually allowed to go through.

Many feel the Jays are overpaying for Dickey, as opposed to underpaying as they did in the Miami Marlins fire-sale.

In the deal (via Fox Sports), Dickey heads to Toronto along with Josh Thole and an unnamed prospect for top catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud, pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard, catcher John Buck, an unnamed prospect and likely cash to help offset Buck's large salary.

Dickey, since throwing primarily a knuckleball after the 2009 season, has nearly been unhittable in 616.2 innings pitched,  allowing 557 hits, 202 earned runs, 150 walks and striking out 468 batters. Last season, he went 20-6 and struck out a career-high 230 batters in a career-high 232 innings pitched.

Dickey won the NL Cy Young Award for his dominance last season. He becomes only the fourth pitcher to win a Cy Young Award and be dealt the following offseason. The others include such greats like Pedro Martinez, David Cone and Roger Clemens.

There is no doubt that Dickey will help the Jays in the short-term, but in the long-term picture, this trade may end up hurting the Jays. 

Dickey, by all accounts, should do fine in the American League, but the fact remains, he'll be pitching in the tough AL East, where his floating knuckleball may get belted more often in batters paradises in Baltimore, New York and Boston, as well as the Rogers Center in Toronto.

In the NL East, the only bandbox Dickey had to pitch in was Citizen's Bank ballpark in Philadelphia.  

The fact remains, Dickey, who turns 39 after next season, has maybe three to five years left of good pitching, but the Jays are losing more than 12 years of control with both Syndergaard and D'Arnaud. Couple that with the fact the Jays will have to pay a premium to retain his services, and this deal might go sour on them if Dickey doesn't pan out quickly in Toronto.

Some pessimists believe the Jays are better holding off on the deal and signing a pitcher like Shaun Marcum. 

Marcum, a former Blue Jay, was the leader of a young Blue Jays staff back in 2010 and helped them to a pretty good season. Getting Marcum may not win them a World Series, but it will improve their team and allow them to hold onto assets which they could use in the future to acquire a big bat or a big arm in the back of the bullpen.

You can look at it either way. If Dickey explodes onto the scene in Toronto and pitches great for the Blue Jays, the trade works out okay. If Dickey pitches well, but D'Arnaud and Syndergaard turn into stud players, the Jays would be wishing they had that move back. If Dickey falls apart and both prospects turn out to be pretty special, this deal could destroy all that GM Alex Anthopolous has built.

You can't win in baseball without a great pitching staff, and if Dickey signs, the Blue Jays have a top pitching staff that rivals the LA Dodgers, Detroit Tigers, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves.

Looking at where the Jays pick in the MLB Draft in 2013 (10th), Toronto can still very well restock their farm system yet again. The fact remains though, will they ever have the kind of depth in the farm system they had only a few short months ago?

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