Maybe you have heard that name before, and maybe you haven't. Most likely, unless you are a die-hard baseball fan or an employee of Baseball Prospectus, the name is probably not going to ring a bell.
Matt LaPorta, figuratively speaking, is the R.A. Dickey trade in a nutshell.
For those who can not place the name, Matt Laporta was a first-round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2007 amateur draft. He had "can't miss" written all over him, and he was eventually traded to the Cleveland Indians during the 2008 season for reigning AL Cy Young winner CC Sabathia.
LaPorta would enter the majors the following season, and be given every opportunity possible to succeed. Since then, the once touted prospect has played in 291 games, compiling only 31 home runs, a .238 batting average and almost as many strikeouts (223) as hits (230).
LaPorta will turn 28 just before the 2013 season begins, and as more time passes, it becomes more and more likely that the once "can't miss" prospect will be just another bust.
While CC Sabathia would eventually only spend about two months in Milwaukee before bolting for New York via free agency, he would help the Brewers reach the playoffs for the first time since 1982. Looking at it now, anyone with any ties to the Brewers who wouldn't do that deal over in a second is either not being truthful, or related to Matt LaPorta.
Trading prospects for proven players happens all the time in baseball, and at the risk of over simplifying some very complicated dealings, it's basically nothing more than a gamble. Sometimes it pays off, and sometimes it doesn't, period.
Which brings us to the Mets, who this week traded newly 2012 NL Cy Young winner to the Toronto Yankees, I mean Blue Jays, in exchange for two prospects and catcher John Buck. The two prospects the Mets received, catcher Travis d'Arnaud and pitcher Noah Syndergaard. Both players, especially d'Arnaud, are predicted to be very good, so this could end up being a good move for the future Mets.
Then again, both players could end up being Matt LaPorta.
This is a risk the Mets did not need to take. With the Sabathia trade, and even other pitchers like Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, it made sense.
Those pitchers played for small market teams who realized they could not afford to get locked into $20 million per year salaries over long periods of time. If any of those teams believed they could have kept those pitchers without struggling financially, surely they would have, rather than selling their known commodity for what could amount to "magic beans."
The Mets, despite being run like they play in the Oakland Coliseum, play in New York City, in a gorgeous new ball park that will have the added revenue of hosting this year's All-Star game.
Regardless of Dickey's age, or the fact that his value may never be higher than it is right now, the Mets could not come to terms with the man who was named the best pitcher in the National League in 2012, a man who was not asking for the $20-plus million per year many other former Cy Young award winners have gotten, but a man who agreed to play the next three years at a total of $29 million.
In other words, R.A. Dickey will average less than $10 million per season over the life of his new deal in Toronto.
He agreed to play for less than guys like Ryan Dempster and Ervin Santana will make next year. He agreed to play for less than what the Mets signed Oliver Perez for a few years back. In other words, if the Mets are looking to find the type of production R.A. Dickey gave them for less money, they might as well try to find a unicorn while they're at it.
With Dickey, the Mets could have easily added a few pieces and tried to contend in the way the San Francisco Giants have.
Unless something changes, and it's looking more and more like it won't, the Mets won't be taking advantage of the fact that the Phillies are aging rapidly, the Marlins sold off everyone, and the Braves will be without Tommy Hanson, Chipper Jones and Michael Bourn.
Instead, they enter the season with David Wright locked up, the worst outfield in baseball, a terrible bullpen that hasn't been fixed and the most reliable pitcher from their starting staff gone, the one part of the Mets that looked like it could be a strength for 2013.
Maybe the starting staff will still be fine. Maybe Dillon Gee and Jon Neise will continue to build on the solid starts of their careers and not regress like Mike Pelfrey did. Maybe Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler will be more Seaver and Gooden than Wilson and Pulsipher. Maybe Johan Santana can stay healthy and productive if his innings are limited.
Maybe this is one of the rare cases where the bird the Mets had in their hand was worth the two in the bush. Maybe Sandy Alderson has flipped a one-hit wonder into players who will keep the Mets competitive for years to come, even if it's at the expense of the 2013 season. Maybe this will all work out in the end for the Mets.
Then again, maybe the Mets traded their best pitcher for two Matt LaPortas.
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