R.A. Dickey: Cy Young Winner Isn't Worth Price to Blue Jays

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIDecember 17, 2012

With news that the Toronto Blue Jays have come to an extension agreement with R.A. Dickey (via ESPN), the 2012 NL Cy Young winner should be in their rotation any day now.

But based on the price they're paying, the Jays are making a huge mistake.

Dickey was one of the best in baseball last season, posting a career high 20 wins with a 2.73 ERA and 4.26 K/BB. He certainly earned his postseason hardware.

And contrary to popular belief, he didn't have just "one good" year.

Dickey has been dominant ever since signing with the Mets before the 2010 season. In those three years he's gone 39-28 with a 2.95 ERA in 616.2 innings pitched.

But there are plenty of other numbers to examine here.

Despite his success in the National League, Dickey has been a failure in the American League.

The journeyman spent seven seasons with three different clubs between 2001 and 2009, and all three were in the AL. The result was a 5.43 ERA and 1.572 WHIP in 442.2 innings.

Dickey has also enjoyed the comforts of some good luck in New York, as well as the spacious outfields of Citi Field.

Dickey has a career ERA of 3.98, and a career xFIP of 4.11. Over his years with the Mets, he's averaged a 2.95 ERA despite a 3.66 xFIP.

Dickey's peripherals have always been pretty steady. He averaged a 5.5 K/9 before 2010, and in his first two seasons with the Mets posted similar marks of 5.37 and 5.78.

He also enjoyed normal BABIP numbers before going to the Mets. His career average is .291, and that's exactly what he posted in 2008 with the Seattle Mariners.

But once he landed in New York, his BABIP took a dramatic dip to .278 in 2010. It has stayed in the .270s ever since.

His numbers explain the decrease, but that doesn't mean they fit his career norms.

His ground ball rate jumped up to the 50 percent range in his first two seasons with the Mets—despite a career rate of 47.4 percent.

While that number stabilized last season, his generally consistent K/9 exploded to 8.86.

The point with all this is to reaffirm a baseball truth: knuckleballers are unpredictable. That risk is exponentially increased when said knuckleballer is 38 years old, such as Dickey.

Once again, this isn't to say that Dickey had one good season in 2012. He had three great seasons in New York.

The argument here is that his numbers jumped around a lot—in ways that make a pitcher dramatically better—but they were drastically different than his career norms.

And these kinds of things are true of any knuckleballer.

Tim Wakefield was always a consistent starting pitcher, good for double-digit wins and a low-to-mid 4.00 ERA.

But he had three seasons where he actually posted an ERA under 3.00. And he also saw years were his generally stable K/9 or ground ball rate would jump up.

With that in mind, it's hard to look at what the Blue Jays are giving up and argue that they're not overpaying in this trade.

The current scenario is that Toronto will send Travis d'Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, John Buck and a prospect to New York for Dickey, Josh Thole and a prospect.

The big prize for the Mets is the addition of d'Arnaud and Syndergaard. According to Baseball America, they are the No. 1 and No. 3 prospects in Toronto's system, respectively.

Travis d'Arnaud is arguably the best catching prospect in baseball. The 23-year-old is a career .286/.343/.474 hitter in the minors, and has 37 home runs in 181 games over his last two seasons.

He should be able to crack the Big League roster this spring, and could be a front-runner for Rookie of the Year.

Syndergaard is less seasoned than d'Arnaud, but has plenty of upside. In three seasons the 20-year-old has a 2.35 ERA and 10.0 K/9.

Considering the fact that the Jays have already traded their No. 2, No. 5 and No. 8 prospects—among others—to Miami in an earlier trade, a once strong farm system has been ultimately gutted.

Which brings us to the underlying issue of this trade. Even if Dickey comes in and has two solid seasons with Toronto, what then?

How much damage has GM Alex Anthopoulos done to the future of his team? And in the end will it be worth it?

Right now these questions are unanswerable. They can't be dealt with until Dickey pitches in Toronto and shows what he's got left.

Despite all the star power they've acquired this offseason, the Toronto Blue Jays still have an uphill climb from their 73-89 record in 2012. The AL East is never easily won, and that will remain the case in 2013.

And if things do go south, this could be the trade that does Toronto in.


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