For weeks, they haggled, feinted, postured and bargained. Now that Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets executives have found common ground on a blockbuster trade in an offseason full of them, only one thing stands between the deal both parties desperately want and its embarrassing implosion.
Until 2 p.m. ET Tuesday, R.A. Dickey – reigning National League Cy Young winner and centerpiece of this trade, going from New York to Toronto – can determine whether the deal happens. The moment he agrees to a contract extension with the Blue Jays, he, Josh Thole and a prospect will head to Toronto for top prospects Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard, catcher John Buck, cash and another prospect. If he doesn't, the deal blows up, almost certainly irreparably, especially embarrassing the Blue Jays, whose desire to contend this year is evident in the steep price they're willing to pay in talent.
Whether they'll do the same in dollars is why they were given a 72-hour window to hammer out a deal with a player who's got more leverage than a derivative broker. One official involved with the deal worries that Dickey, so emboldened, will push for a far more lucrative deal than the two-year, $26 million extension he sought from the Mets. Indeed, an agent not involved with the negotiations suggested he would seek a three-year extension with vesting options for a fourth and fifth season, noting that despite Dickey being 38 years old, knuckleball pitchers are thought to age well.
A compromise, another official said, could include tearing up Dickey's one-year, $5 million contract for 2013 and giving him a new deal somewhere in the range of three years and $38 million – a $7 million raise this year on top of what he asked for from New York.
If there is any concern for Dickey, it is excessive use of the leverage peeving Toronto. Though considering their willingness to include d'Arnaud, the game's best catching prospect, and Syndergaard, a power right-hander, the Blue Jays see Dickey as the piece that vaults them into contention in the American League East this season.
Worries from Toronto are understandable. Earlier this week, Anibal Sanchez – a pitcher whose across-the-board numbers over the last three years pale next to Dickey's – signed a five-year, $80 million deal with Detroit. While Dickey, a career journeyman who found success in his late 30s with the Mets, relishes the idea of riches he never thought would come his way, he understands another year like last heading into free agency could at least double the size of his contract.
Should the deal falter, the Mets almost certainly would find a trade partner for Dickey, albeit not at the price the Blue Jays were willing to pay. Following their low-balling of him – the Mets' best extension offer was $20 million over two years – and his voicing disappointment with the low-ball at the team's holiday party, Dickey is resigned to leaving New York, be it to Toronto or elsewhere.
The Blue Jays, on the other hand, could scuttle their trade plans and head into the season with a stellar rotation anchored around Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero.
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