Today marks a landmark day in Blue Jays history. If the Marlins trade meant the Jays were shifting gears and getting better, and if the Melky signing signalled that we’re serious about contending in 2013, the acquisition of defending NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey tells us one thing and one thing only:
We’re not simply planning to contend – we’re planning to win.
That message hadn’t been sent to the fan base since 1992 and 1993, with the Jeff Kent for David Cone, and the Steve Karsay for Ricky Henderson deals.
Now, it’s being sent again.
Did the Jays give up a lot to reel in Dickey? Without a question they did. Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard were not only the two top prospects in the Blue Jays system, they were two of the top prospects in all of baseball.
But I’ve heard a few times that the Jays are dealing top prospects for one year of a 38-year old knucklballer who’s had only one good year in his life. What people forget is that an extension is part of the deal, meaning Dickey will be here for three years, not one, and that Dickey has had more than one good year: from 2010-2012 he went 39-28 with a 2.95 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and a 3.12 K/BB ratio for the Mets, a team that went 26 games under .500 in that time.
And though they may have given up a lot, you’ve got to give something to get something.
Although I was a bit skeptical at first, after spending some time thinking about it, here are six reasons why I am fully on-board with this trade:
1. The Toronto Blue Jays haven’t made the playoffs in 20 years. Despite the expansion of the playoff system from two teams per league, to four teams, and last year to five teams, the Jays haven’t made it. In fact, the Jays have barely even sniffed the playoffs in that time, routinely finishing double digits behind playoff teams. Stuck in the same division as the huge wallets of New York and Boston, and recently with the rising powerhouse Rays, things looked hopeless.
But things are different this year. Look at the rest of the AL East:
The Yankees are old, and getting older. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera will be coming back from significant injuries. A-Rod will miss about half the year. Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda are a combined 176 years old. CC Sabathia weighs nearly a metric ton. Mark Teixeira has been regressing sharply for years. On top of that, the Yankees are actively trying to REDUCE payroll!
Boston is a shadow if its former self. After shedding a ton of bad contracts last year, fans had hope that they would invest that money wisely. But instead of going all in on a Josh Hamilton type, or trying to get younger, they blew their wad on a collection of players that might actually make them worse in 2013. Teams often try to catch lightning in a bottle with signings, but the Red Sox are trying to catch lightning in a bottle with FIVE players: Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Ryan Dempster, and Stephen Drew. Good luck with that.
Tampa Bay is still a powerhouse, and just acquired Wil Myers. But they still have holes at 1B and DH, and lost James Shields, one of the most dependable pitchers in baseball.
Baltimore had a magical year last year, and responded by doing nothing to improve their roster other then re-signing Nate McLouth and dumping Mark Reynolds.
If there has ever been a chance to rise to the top of the AL East, 2013 is it.
2. Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard are outstanding talents. If you listen to baseball experts, they are both future All-Stars, and will be for years and years. But, the same was also said about Todd Van Poppel and Brien Taylor, two top notch prospects who fell flat and were incredible busts. The fact is, nobody knows how well a prospect will fare in the big leagues until he gets to the big leagues. For every Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Evan Longoria, Buster Posey, and Joe Mauer (top rated prospects by Baseball America) the road is littered with failures, including:
Van Poppel, Taylor, Alex Gonzalez (the old Jays SS who was the #4 prospect in all of baseball in 1994), Brian Matusz, Tommy Hanson, Delmon Young, Joba Chamberlain, Jeremy Hermida, Brandon Wood, Lastings Milledge, and on and on and on….
Jays fans already know failed prospects well. On top of the aforementioned Gonzalez, names like Jose Silva, Kelvim Escobar, Alex Rios, Dustin McGowan, and (sadly) Travis Snider and Kyle Drabek come to mind.
The point is that there is a very good chance that d’Arnaud and Syndergaard are future All-Stars. There is a better chance, if history is any indication, that they aren’t.
3. However – let’s assume for a minute that they are elite prospects who WILL turn into MLB superstars. Travis d’Arnaud has shown to be a bit injury prone thus far, and missed most of 2012 with a knee injury. Because of that, he might not make an impact until later in 2013 or 2014. Syndergaard spent last year in class A Lansing, meaning he still has a long way to go to reach the majors. Let’s say he gets there and is a solid contributor in 2015 or 2016. By that time, with Syndergaard throwing to d’Arnaud, the current Jays core of Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and Mark Buehrle will be 3-4 years older, and likely well on the downside of their careers. Josh Johnson might be gone. The bottom line is that this current core of players can’t wait for the next core, lead by Syndergaard and d’Arnaud to get here. Those guys might plug big holes in the rotation and at the catcher position, but by then we’d have holes in right field, DH, shortstop, and possibly elsewhere. A World Series winning team fronted by Bautista wouldn’t happen if we waited for Syndergaard to be the ace.
4. Fans can’t have it both ways. Remember the anger last year on Twitter when Toronto failed to sign Prince Fielder, Carlos Beltran, Yu Darvish, and others? Remember the frustration by fans who lamented the fact that we were stockpiling prospects and waiting for next year? Well folks, next year is here. The Jays have done what you wanted all along and are now going for it. So why the anger that we are dealing prospects now?
Top prospects can help you win by going through the minors and making contributions at the major league level. But they can also help you win by building up value and then being dealt for high level, major league ready, impact talent, talent like Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and yes, R.A. Dickey. This team is remarkably better right now than it was last year. We should all be excited about that. I want to be able to celebrate a World Series win by going crazy on Yonge Street with a million of my closest friends. Constantly waiting for next year would never allow that to happen.
5. As part of the deal, R.A. Dickey agreed to an extension that, at the time I write this, appears to be worth $25-million over two years, meaning that Toronto will be paying Dickey $30-million over the next three years when his $5-million salary for 2013 is factored in. Yes there are risks – Dickey will be 38-years old on Opening Day. But he is a knuckleball pitcher, and those types of pitchers often pitch until their mid 40′s. Plus, and this is important, HE IS THE DEFENDING NL CY YOUNG AWARD WINNER!!!!!!
To put this deal in context, consider that Kansas City is paying Jeremy Guthrie $25-million for 3-years. Boston will be paying Ryan Dempster (nearly 36-year old Ryan Dempster) $26.5-million for the next two years. Josh Beckett will be paid $31.5-million by the Dodgers for the next two seasons. 40-year old (turning 41) Andy Pettitte is being paid $12-million next year by the Yankees. On top of that, Dickey will be paid $9-millon less over the next three years than Boston is paying a clearly regressing Shane Victorino, and nearly half as much in 2013 as they are paying Stephen Drew. In those terms, this deal look a bit better doesn’t it?
6. Let’s say for a second that everything goes belly up, that d’Arnaud and Syndergaard flourish and become future stars, that Dickey has a terrible season, and the Blue Jays end up in last place in the East. While that would be an unmitigated disaster, take some comfort in the following:
a) while they’ll miss d’Arnaud, J.P. Arencibia is still a pretty good catcher to fall back on. Yes he struggles with getting on base, and he is by no means a top-5 catcher in the AL, but he has hit 41 home runs the past two seasons. It’s not like they’re left with Jose Molina. In addition, Roberto Osuna, Aaron Sanchez, Deck McGuire and others are still rising in the minors, so the pitching cupboard is by no means bare.
b) d’Arnaud and Syndergaard would be flourishing with the New York Mets, who last I checked played in the NL East. They would not be in direct competition with Toronto.
c) Alex Anthopoulos was responsible for acquiring d’Arnaud and drafting Syndergaard. If anything, he has proven to have a decent eye for talent. In the next few years, there is a very good chance that the next d’Arnaud and the next Syndergaard will already be in the Blue Jays minor league system.
So keep the faith and always remember:
In AA we trust.