The New York Mets agreed to trade reigning Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for a package centered around top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud, a source close to the negotiations confirmed to Yahoo! Sports on Sunday afternoon. The trade is contingent on Dickey negotiating a contract extension within 72 hours, according to Foxsports.com, which first reported the deal's completion.
Following a long offseason in which New York simultaneously considered a contract extension for the 38-year-old Dickey while shopping him, the impasse in negotiations forced the Mets' hand and brought back a player in d'Arnaud they expect to be among their core in a long, slogging rebuilding effort.
Toronto, on the other hand, mortgaged the talented 23-year-old d'Arnaud, along with 20-year-old Noah Syndergaard, a hard-throwing right-hander with No. 2-starter upside, catcher John Buck (including cash to cover an undisclosed amount of his salary) and an as-yet-unknown prospect, to bolster an already-deep roster that will enter 2013 as the favorite in the American League East – and perhaps the entire league.
Dickey, a knuckleballer who mastered the craft in the Mets' spacious Citi Field, goes to Toronto, where he'll join a staff already larded with Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle and Ricky Romero. Johnson and Buehrle arrived in the offseason's first blockbuster, a 12-player deal with the Miami Marlins that also sent Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and Buck across the border. In addition to Dickey, the Blue Jays will receive catcher Josh Thole and another prospect.
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Toronto's deep farm system, developed during general manager Alex Anthopoulos' tenure, paid off with another big trade. The Blue Jays acquired d'Arnaud three years and one day ago in a trade with Philadelphia for Roy Halladay and watched him blossom into a star at Triple-A last season, when he hit .333/.380/.595 in a supercharged Las Vegas environment that tilts in the hitter's favor.
Accordingly, Toronto was more than hesitant to give up d'Arnaud. Two executives who inquired about him in other trade talks told Yahoo! Sports the Blue Jays deemed him unavailable in trades. Toronto's willingness to give up a prospect of d'Arnaud's caliber pushed the Mets to deal after flirtations with the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore Orioles and others. Mets GM Sandy Alderson played his hand powerfully, juggling the friendliness of Dickey's current deal (one year, $5 million) with an exploding market for starting pitching, a strong palette of suitors and the possibility that Dickey could re-up with New York.
The Mets and Dickey had worked for months trying to hammer out a deal, with Dickey seeking two years and $26 million and the Mets edging their way up to two years and $20 million. When it started becoming more obvious that the $6 million gap wouldn't be bridged – Dickey's discussion of the negotiations at a company holiday party miffed Mets management – New York moved into overdrive to consummate a trade.
All of that leverage, plus Dickey's performance last season, yielded a market as fruitful as that of James Shields, for whom the Royals this week traded Wil Myers, the minor leagues' top hitting prospect. And between d'Arnaud and Syndergaard, the Mets arguably got more in return than the Rays.
Now comes time for the Blue Jays to work with Dickey in hopes their discussions find more success. With Zack Greinke fetching nearly $25 million a year and Anibal Sanchez getting $16 million a year as free agents this offseason, Dickey could reasonably ask for more than the $13 million a year he requested from New York.
Dickey went 20-6 this season with a 2.73 ERA and threw a league-high 233 2/3 innings for the Mets, whose financial troubles have led to a full-scale overhaul under Alderson. Between this deal and the July 2011 trade that netted the Mets starter Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran, Alderson's two signature moves as GM involve flipping impending free agents for high-ceiling prospects.
Wheeler is on the cusp of the major leagues and would join Matt Harvey and Jonathon Niese as the core of a strong young rotation that could blossom and make the Mets contenders once owner Fred Wilpon – or new ownership – starts carrying a payroll reflective of a team in New York.
Toronto, coming off a 73-89 finish in which it finished just four games ahead of the last-place Red Sox, looks eminently dangerous this year, boasting a five-deep rotation and lineup with Reyes, Bonifacio, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, J.P. Arencibia, Adam Lind and free-agent signing Melky Cabrera.
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