Before and after exercising Dickey’s $5 million option for 2013 last week, it was natural for club brass to discuss how to maximize his value: Is he worth more to the Mets as a pitcher, or as a trade chip? The team is in desperate need of outfielders and catchers, have an abundance of young pitching, and believe they should deal from depth.
I’ve discussed potential Dickey deals in this space, prompting a few people to ask why I want the Mets to trade the Dickster. To be clear: I don’t. What I want is for the Mets to have the wherewithal to sign Dickey to an extension and add a free agent or two and aim to contend in 2013.
But since I try my best to operate in reality where appropriate and because it doesn’t seem like the Mets will be throwing around big bucks this offseason, I have become progressively more open to the idea of them trading Dickey in a deal for a young position player.
The Mets can approach Dickey in any of three ways this winter. They can sign him to an extension, they can do nothing and enjoy one more year of his services at a discount rate, or they can try to trade him for young players.
Opting to sign him to an extension — rumored to be somewhere in the three-year, $45 million neighborhood — will mean paying a premium for a premium pitcher. Dickey was probably worth more than $15 million to the Mets in 2012, and he’s a knuckleballer who hasn’t yet suffered the effects of his advancing age. So there’s some chance Dickey could pitch well enough over the course of an extension to provide the club surplus value on top of what he’s earning.
But an extension also comes with significant risk: He is, after all, 38, and the Mets would be paying him at a rate he established with a career year in 2012. If he falters, he could prove a fine pitcher worth slightly less than the $15 million a year, or, worse, if he gets hurt he could be worth way less than $15 million a year. Either way, the salary would count against the Mets’ finite payroll, and represents money that could be spent elsewhere — for better or worse.
Doing nothing seems like the worst idea of the three, given the Mets’ current situation. Due to the new collective bargaining agreement, an acquiring team would not receive compensatory draft picks for Dickey if it traded for him during the season, which seems likely to diminish his value at the trade deadline. Holding on to him now in the hopes of a #YOLOrioles-style postseason run in 2013 could help fill seats in the early part of the season, but if it doesn’t pay off and/or Dickey does not repeat his 2012 performance, the Mets will have missed their opportunity to cash in on him when his value is highest.
The thought of him pitching elsewhere on Opening Day 2013 is tough to stomach, I know. But trading him — as Martino’s article suggests — might represent the best way to maximize the value of the commodities on the Mets’ roster. The deal needs to be right, of course. But think about it this way: Which is likely to provide more value to the Mets moving forward, Dickey signed to a three-year extension at the market rate (or near the market rate), or a package of young, cost-controlled players they could receive in a deal for a pitcher coming off a Cy Young-caliber season?
And think about the replacements in question. Without Dickey, the Mets’ rotation is not nearly as good as it is with Dickey. But it’s still reasonably deep, with Johan Santana, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee, a host of young guys with live arms and a group of solid Triple-A dudes deemed “Dillon Gee types.” Without bringing in outfielders, the Mets have only outfielder under contract — Mike Baxter — who posted an OPS above .730 at a level above Double-A in 2012.