R.A. Dickey Trade: What the Future Holds for Travis D'Arnaud, New York Mets

Bryan KalbroskyCorrespondent IDecember 18, 2012

R.A. Dickey Trade: What the Future Holds for Travis D'Arnaud, New York Mets

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    The New York Mets have sent R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays, and the identity of the franchise, into a state of flux, hoping to reach the playoffs by 2015.

    For Sandy Alderson and the front office of the New York Mets, it became clear that their management is planning for the season of 2015 rather than 2013. The fact of the matter is that the Mets have a strategy in mind, and it has everything to do with the prospects rising within their system.

    The Mets may be admitting defeat, but they also realize they will not contend for the next couple of seasons. And while it’s difficult for me to write an article praising the departure of my favorite player in the MLB from my favorite team, it’s easy to see why the Mets made this trade.   

    With constant unwelcoming reminders, it’s never hard to forget that baseball is a competitive game, and one rooted in business. If the price isn’t right to make your team the best that it can be over the long haul, the pieces simply won’t fit into the puzzle.

    Keeping R.A. Dickey until he was 41 years old simply was not what they foresaw as the best option for their success, as they capitalized on a market hungry for starting pitching.

    “I recognize this is an entertainment business and it was great to have R.A. here,” said Mets GM Sandy Alderson. “Were we not able to get the quality in return … I expect R.A. would have remained a Met.”

    If you’re looking for a piece on how the Mets mistreated Dickey and threw him under the bus, it’s true. The Mets showed very little appreciation for R.A. Dickey and the wonderful things he has contributed to the game of baseball in the past two years. And you don’t need me to convince you of this once more, especially when so many other writers are arguing this.

    Ultimately, the Mets made a smart baseball decision in their move to pick up Travis D’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard.

    This follows a trend of impressive moves from Alderson, who now has gotten extremely high value for both Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey when testing the trade market.

Strong Young Pitching Prospects (Wheeler, Harvey, Syndergaard)

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    The Mets won a total of 72 games while R.A. Dickey was their staff ace. Twenty of those wins came from Dickey.

    The Mets were not going to be any better in 2013, so it was time to cash in.

    By acquiring prospect Noah Syndergaard, the team instead focuses on the future of the pitching staff rather than building around someone who will be 40 years old by the time that the rest of the Mets' talent is ready for MLB play.

    The Mets are building strong young pitching and following the strategy of 2012 World Series champion San Francisco Giants. They are rooted largely in their homegrown pitching talent of Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner.

    Within the next two years, the Mets will have their own version of the Giants rotation.

    Top prospect Zack Wheeler will join young sensation Matt Harvey in the MLB. Expect Jennry Mejia and even Jeurys Familia, Michael Fulmer or recently-acquired top pitching prospect Syndergaard to follow suit.

    Zack Wheeler is considered to be the future of the Mets rotation and is ranked as the No. 6 overall prospect by ScoutingBook.com.

    With the addition of Syndergaard (No. 33 overall), that gives the Mets two pitchers in the Top 50 overall prospects. Syndergaard is 6’5” and 220 pounds and is only 20 years old. He can throw a fastball between 92–98 MPH at his young age.

    Familia, known for a killer strikeout rate, is also considered to be a Top 100 overall prospect by MLB.com.

    The entire Top 10 Mets Prospects by BaseballAmerica.com is littered with young Mets pitching and also includes impressive young names like Luis Mateo, Rafael Montero, Domingo Tapia and Cory Mazzoni.

    If even one of them hits big, the Mets will surely have a top pitching staff in baseball, not to mention the fact that any of them can be packaged in a trade for more talent once pitching talent such as Josh Johnson and Tim Lincecum become available.

     

    Projected 2014/15 Starting Staff (2012 Statistics)

    SP Matt Harvey, 23 years old, seventh overall pick in 2010 MLB draft (3.68 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 9.2 K/9 in AAA-level play)

    SP Zack Wheeler, 22 years old, sixth overall pick in 2009 MLB draft (3.27 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 8.05 K/9 in AAA-level play)

    SP Noah Syndergaard, 20 years old, first-round pick in 2010 MLB draft) (2.60 ERA 1.08 WHIP, 10.6 K/9 in A-level play)

    SP Jeurys Familia, 23 years old, (4.73 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 8.41 K/9 in AAA-level play)

    SP Jennry Mejia (played at three levels)

Building Youth Within Infield Around D'Arnaud

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    Travis D’Arnaud now offers a blue-chip piece to highlight a young, upcoming offense that will rise through the Mets system.

    By building overall youth within the system, the Mets follow the model of the Tampa Bay Rays and develop strength at which you can plug and play over the next few years.

    The Mets now boast a strong farm system and had an overall winning percentage from all of their affiliates for the second year in a row last season.

    Under former Mets GM Omar Minaya, the Mets threw money and prospects at perennial top talent to stay in contention. His tenure showed a total of one division title and one appearance in the 2006 NLCS.

    However, this nearsighted strategy never brought much success to the franchise, drained the franchise of their farm system and was extraordinarily costly. The New York Mets tried being their own version of the New York Yankees, signing Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Johan Santana and even Jason Bay.

    For a refresher, the Opening Day roster payroll in 2009 was as high as $149 million. The Mets finished the season with 70 wins total, and Fernando Martinez was considered to be the top prospect in the Mets system by Baseball America. Overall, they were hardly much to boast about.

    The attempt at throwing money around at whatever moved didn’t work. Forget that this even happened.

    Now, they have a catcher who they can build around. D’Arnaud is an elite offensive player who grew up idolizing Mike Piazza, with defensive production better than any the Mets have ever seen behind the plate.

    He is highly regarded as the top catching prospect in baseball, was traded for Roy Halladay and ScoutingBook.com has him listed as their No. 12 overall prospect in the game. He was even rated at No. 5 overall by Keith Law.

    This all comes with good reason.

    In 2011, he won Eastern League MVP behind a line of .311/.371/.542.

    Last season, he hit .333/.380/.595 in the minors, tearing up the league before injuring himself. He will be a middle of the order hitter once he comes up to the big leagues and will be an above-average contributor.

    D’Arnaud is a brilliant addition to an infield that already features superstar defenders David Wright and Ike Davis, having thrown out 30 percent of attempted baserunners.

    The Mets also feature serviceable young players who have proven themselves in the majors in Rueben Tejada and Daniel Murphy.

    The Mets tout upcoming prospects Wilmer Flores and their 2012 first-round pick, Gavin Cecchini, as well and can use them as trade bait for an outfielder if they feel comfortable with Daniel Murphy and Rueben Tejada at middle infield. 

     

    Projected 2014/15 Infield

    Catcher: Travis D’Arnaud 

    First Base: Ike Davis 

    Second Base: Daniel Murphy, Wilmer Flores, Reese Havens 

    Third Base: David Wright 

    Shortstop: Rueben Tejada, Gavin Cecchini 

Save Money for 2014 Offseason Outfielders

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    While the Mets may not have the most impressive lineup going into next season, they certainly will have the money to spend in the offseason.

    In 2013, the Mets' payroll would sit around a much more modest $90.3 million, which includes the salary owed to Jason Bay buyout in Seattle. While the Mets plan to sign another pitcher to help replace Dickey, they are expected to have a cap of around $10 million for the remainder of the offseason.  

    After the upcoming season is completed, $31 million will come off of the books from the expiration of Johan Santana’s enormous contract. An additional $22 million will come off the books from the money owed to Jason Bay.

    This will essentially give the New York Mets the freedom to effectively “start over” with a fresh 2014 season after finishing under .500 with 70, 79, 77 and 74 wins and in fourth place in the NL East over the last four seasons.

    Outfielders who may become free agents in 2014 include Hunter Pence, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson (if his extension is not signed), Corey Hart and Nelson Cruz.

    This would be an addition to an outfield that includes former first-round pick Brandon Nimmo.

    Oher outfielders in the system already that may see their way into the roster include Cesar Puello, Kirk Nieuwenheuis, Jordany Valdespin, Aderlin Rodriguez and Matt Den Dekker. Any of those names can be packaged as well, considering many do have solid trade value.

     

    Projected 2014/15 Outfield

    Outfield: Nelson Cruz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, Hunter Pence or Corey Hart

    Outfield: Brandon Nimmo

    Outfield: Cesar Puello, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jordany Valdespin or Aderlin Rodriguez 

Bottoming out with David Wright to Get to the Top

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    At the end of the day, it’s become clear that the Mets do not plan to contend much during the 2013, and maybe even 2014 seasons.

    This would help them acquire more top draft picks, perhaps even outfielders, over the next few years so that they can, in turn, produce a reliable lineup. Don’t expect the Mets to spend much on talent in the coming season or two considering how much they have developing in the wings.

    With some lower-level seasons coming, the fan base of the Mets will be tested with seasons of potential agony.

    It will also test the will and determination of David Wright and the rest of the New York Mets starting lineup, and how much their dedication to the franchise is worth as the team may be unable to produce.

    Regardless of how poor they may be now, the Mets received some impressive value for R.A. Dickey and feature some strong prospects in the wing. If the team plays poorly, there is a greater purpose.

    This time, however, there remains hope for the future. There is legitimate talent on the rise within the system. Mets fans just need to learn how to wait and see how the development of Sandy Alderson's talent plays out.

    The Mets are cashin’ out, and I’m OK with it.