In perhaps the most anti-climactic outcome involving a reigning Cy Young winner, the Mets have agreed to send knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays, in exchange for top prospects Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard as well as catcher John Buck and 17-year-old outfielder Wuilmer Becerra. Also heading north to Toronto are catchers Josh Thole, who caught 27 of Dickey’s 34 starts, and Mike Nickeas.
New York Mets:
New York did very well in acquiring not one, but two top prospects in d’Arnaud, the top catching prospect in baseball, and Syndergaard.
d’Arnaud, who dominated the Triple-A competition before a knee injury cost him a significant portion of the season, hit .333/.380/.595, with above-average power (.262 ISO) that borders on plus, below-average plate discipline (6.3% BB-rate) and solid contact skills (19.5% K-rate). His bat would be an above-average asset anywhere on the field, but becomes an elite weapon behind the plate, assuming he can stay there for about 130 or so games a year.
Like d’Arnaud, Syndergaard, the 38th overall pick in the 2010 draft, turned in an impressive 2012 campaign, throwing 103.2 innings while averaging 10.59 punch outs and just 2.69 walks per nine innings. This, of course, came against Midwest League competition, where the average hitter is two years older than Syndergaard.
Obviously, there’s a certain amount of risk in acquiring a young pitcher — promising or not — and the 6-foot-5 right-hander will have to get through the injury nexus, but Syndergaard profiles as a front-end-rotation-type who could peak at a 4.0- to 4.5-win season.
Buck, on the other hand, turned in one of the worst offensive seasons of his entire career, hitting a measly .192/.297/.347 with the Marlins, who sent him to Toronto in the Jose Reyes/Josh Johnson/ Mark Buehrle mega-trade. At this point in his career, Buck’s nothing more than a backup catcher with strong on-base skills, modest power, and horrific averages.
The wild card in the trade is Becerra, who signed with the Blue Jays out of Venezuela for $1.3 million, or the approximate equivalent of being the 39th pick in the amateur draft (according to MLB slot bonuses).
Unfortunately, there’s extremely little data to go on; Becerra only played in 11 games before suffering a broken jaw thanks to a fastball to the face. He did hit .250/.359/.375 in 39 plate appearances (caution: small sample size). He could literally turn into anything at this point, an above-average starter, a useful role player, or even peter-out in the minors. But the Blue Jays paid him first round money so this could be quite the coup for the Mets.
It’s simple, really. After acquiring Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes, the Blue Jays are viable contenders and they recognize that their window to contend could be relatively small, so they decided to go all in. And, truthfully, you can’t fault them for that.
Dickey, who at the very worst is solid mid-rotation starter (depending on regression), adds tremendous depth to the rotation, giving the team five legitimate starting pitchers, maybe six depending how the organization views J.A. Happ. And not does Toronto have an incredibly deep rotation, but the team also fronts one of the better lineups, sporting Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Colby Rasmus, Adam Lind and their own very wild card in Melky Cabrera.
As for Thole, he’s a solid backup whose value becomes increasingly higher because of his ability to handle Dickey’s knuckler. And Nickeas is nothing more than minor league fodder.
It’s a win-win for both teams. The Mets clearly aren’t going to contend in 2013, or 2014 for that matter and did well in acquiring lineup protection for David Wright and a potential front-end start in Syndergaard. For the Blue Jays, the time to win is now. And Dickey gives them one of the best rotations in all of baseball. This deal does, however, have the potential to equally look just a good in the short term for Toronto as it does bad in the long term, depending how the team fares in the next two to three years.
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