R.A. Dickey: The Market’s Other Ace

R.A. Dickey was just recently announced as a finalist for the 2012 National League Cy Young Award. Depending on who you ask, he might well be the favorite to win. R.A. Dickey was just earlier Thursday reported to be the subject of trade conversations. Joel Sherman talked about it, Ken Rosenthal talked about it, and others have talked about it. Right now team executives are all hanging out in the same place, and the Mets are gauging the trade value of maybe the league’s best starting pitcher. It probably goes without saying that this is an unusual situation.

For those who haven’t been following, what makes this more unusual is that there were just reports that the Mets and Dickey had made progress in contract extension negotiations. Dickey’s locked up for just one more year, and he’s interested in returning, while the Mets are interested in having him return. It’s all just a matter of price, as it pretty much always is. At present, Dickey wants more than the Mets are willing to give, which is obviously why they haven’t reached an agreement.

As in virtually all cases, there’s not a thing wrong with the Mets doing their due diligence. It doesn’t do anybody any good to make a player completely unavailable. One should always at least listen to trade ideas around anyone and everyone, because those ideas provide information and opportunities. The Mets should be aware of what’s out there in a possible R.A. Dickey trade market. But the way Rosenthal writes it, it seems like the Mets might have more or less made up their minds. That is to say, this might go beyond simple due diligence — the Mets might already understand that an extension agreement won’t be reached.

In that case, now’s the time to move. The Mets are unlikely to contend in 2013, and the Mets are well aware of it, and it doesn’t do a ton of good to hang onto Dickey another year. They might — might — come away from that with draft-pick compensation. It doesn’t do a ton of good to hang onto Dickey until midseason, because then half his starts will have been used up, potential draft-pick compensation will be off the table for a trade partner, and there will be fewer interested teams than there would be today. Today, nearly every team can imagine a situation in which it’s contending in 2013. Come the middle of 2013, not so much.

The consensus is that Dickey’s value will never be higher, and while you can’t ever say never, it’s a compelling case. Dickey is coming off a Cy Young-caliber season. Dickey is under contract for one season and $5 million. There’s not a team in baseball that couldn’t take on a $5 million contract, and there’s not a team in baseball that couldn’t use a probable ace. This is an opportunity for a team to be incredibly efficient with its money. Dickey’s surplus value in 2013 beyond his salary should be enormous, and so he’s both an appealing get and a hell of a trade chip.

For a team that fancies itself an immediate contender, Dickey would be a boost at the top of the rotation. For a team that would just like to fancy itself an immediate contender, Dickey would be a boost at the top of the rotation, and there would likely remain payroll flexibility to add other pieces around him. In other words, Dickey wouldn’t have to be a team’s only major addition, because, in terms of money, he’d be coming so cheap. So there’s no shortage of teams that could and should be interested.

Obviously, an issue is how Dickey will be evaluated. Wrote Andy Martino:

While rival executives were united in their view that Dickey would draw significant interest, few were confident in predicting his price.

There’s going to be greater variability in opinions of Dickey than in opinions of a more normal player, because there hasn’t ever really been a player like R.A. Dickey. There have been knuckleballers, but there have never been knuckleballers who threw so hard, so effectively. Dickey is newly 38, and with other knuckleballers age is less of a concern, but again, Dickey throws harder, and he also has the whole missing-UCL thing. One can’t know how to properly account for any age-related decline. And Dickey just had a career season. He’s posted low ERAs three years in a row, but his strikeout rate shot up from 15 percent to 25 percent. In no month last season was Dickey’s strikeout rate lower than 21 percent. At an age where most players are nearing the end, Dickey got better at throwing strikes and missing bats. Dickey was, to say it again, one of the very best starting pitchers in baseball.

Given the variability, there will be teams who are interested in Dickey, but only to an extent. They’ll be more cautious, and so they’ll drop out of the running. But given the variability, there will also be teams who are highly confident. Teams who believe in Dickey immediately and also maybe down the road, and all it would take are one or two of these teams to really drive a market.

There would need to be a team that values Dickey more highly than the Mets do, and given that the Mets and Dickey haven’t gotten close to a contract agreement, it seems likely such a team would exist. Because Dickey has an empty list of historical comparisons, a lot of it’s going to be guesswork and faith, and there are reasons to be optimistic about his present and future. The interested team could then offer the Mets pieces that would be of more use to them than Dickey the next time the Mets are competitive.

Zack Greinke has been a good pitcher for a while. He’s had his issues, but when he’s been on the field, he’s been pretty successful. Last July, he was dealt from the Brewers to the Angels for Jean Segura, Ariel Pena, and John Hellweg. Greinke wound up making 13 starts, and while the Angels are trying to re-sign him, if he leaves there’s not going to be any compensation. If Dickey were to be dealt now, compensation would be a possibility, and instead of 13 starts, he’d be in position to make 30+.

So while Dickey’s got years on Greinke, and maybe a little more performance uncertainty, he’s got more in his favor, including his most recent statistics. In a trade return, the Mets would stand to receive at least one ready or nearly-ready young player, along with other young players. Maybe the most obvious fit right now would be those same Angels, who are in desperate need of starters and who could use another starter even if they get Greinke re-signed. Dickey would cost them just that $5 million, and they could offer Peter Bourjos as the main part of a return, since he’s young and talented and plays a position where the Mets are pretty bare. Bourjos wouldn’t be enough on his own, and there’s no guarantee that he turns into a real thing, but he’d be a good starting point. The Angels didn’t strip themselves bare in acquiring Greinke last summer.

But the Angels aren’t the only possible fit. Given Dickey’s low salary, he’d be a possible fit almost anywhere. The Mets value Dickey however much they value Dickey. Right now, they’re searching for a team that values him more. Should such a team be identified, a trade should probably follow, and the Mets will probably be better off for it. There are teams best suited to take a chance on a talented 38-year-old knuckleballer. The present New York Mets aren’t real high on that list.




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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


46 Responses to “R.A. Dickey: The Market’s Other Ace”

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  1. Jamie says:

    I think this undervalue Dickey’s value as a fan favorite. This season the Mets had little to cheer in the second half, except for Dickey’s pursuit of the Cy Young and Mets fan really do love the guy.
    There is also value in the Mets not totally tanking and fielding an at least semi respectable team. It shows the fans there is some reason to come out to the ballpark. If the Mets trade Dickey and continue to not extend David Wright there is not going to be much reason for the fans to go out and see the team.

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    • David says:

      The Mets are not the Pirates or the Royals. They do not need to value players as “fan favorites” to try and eke out a few more tickets sold. They are a major market team with tremendous resources. Yes, I know the Wilpon’s have financial woes at the moment. But the Mets shouldn’t be run like a small market team. They should make whatever moves they feel are needed to build a contender as quickly and completely as they can. If that means extending Dickey and/or Wright then that’s great. But if not, then hey have to be able to weather the PR storm and move on while they are assets with real value.

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      • Spike says:

        I guess you haven’t been checking the direction of the Mets attendance the past 4 years.

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      • David says:

        Spike: The Mets attendance has dropped because they aren’t winning. Attendance correlates better with winning than with anything else.

        You can make a financial argument … sometimes … for a smaller market team that it might be worth it on the bottom line to retain fan favorite players who’s contracts make it difficult to fill out a decent 25-man roster.

        The Mets, however, are bigger than that. If they can win then the fans will come. It’s that simple. If keeping Dickey and/or Wright makes it harder for them to win, then they shouldn’t do it.

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      • Spike says:

        no doubt, but the team is going to crater more if they deal Dickey and possibly Wright. The runway is going to extend by a several years if they deal away their best players. As you said, it’s about winning and that means the Wilpons will have to invest more in this team. The Madoff excuses can only go so far. This team has an enormous fan base, a new stadium, a cash cow cable network, and more MLB revenue streams than ever before. But they have continued to hang onto the excuses of needing the wait out bad contracts. What will it be next?

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  2. Todd says:

    I do not think Bourjos + would be enough for Dickey. Someone along the lines of an Alex Gordon makes more sense.

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  3. Spike says:

    mmm, dubious assumptions I think. What team is going to make a qualifying offer of $13M+ for a 39 yo pitcher a year from now?

    the other thing is that normally 1 yr rentals don’t return much in the winter. During the year with the pressure of the playoffs looming for some teams, they often make irrational decisions and overpay. Right now, there are many FA starters available that won’t require trading prospects so teams have lots of options to work thru before dealing real assets for a 1 yr rental.

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    • attgig says:

      unless a signing window was granted, like the Johan Sanata trade with the mets and twins. mets were granted a 3 day signing window so that it wouldn’t just be a 1 year rental.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      Spike, are you kidding? Is there any team that wouldn’t make a qualifying offer of $13M+ to him right now? Why would that change a year from now?

      The Royals just spent nearly that much for Ervin Santana, a very mediocre pitcher. Of course teams would make that offer for 1 year of a CY Young caliber pitcher. Even if he pitches more like 2010/2011, he’d get that offer.

      As for 1 yr rentals, most rentals are in the last year of their deal where the salary is highest. They’re very rarely paid 25 cents on the dollar, like Dickey is with his $5MM salary. There’s not a single FA starter available that will produce anywhere near what Dickey will produce for anywhere near 1-year/$5MM.

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      • Stinky says:

        Dickey will be 39 a year from now. It’s far from a lock that he’d get a QO a yr from now.

        The days of teams giving up prized prospects for 1 yr rentals is about over except when the heat of a pennant race is on… in mid-season teams often throw caution to the wind and will deal prospects for 3 month rentals.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        Stinky, unless his knuckle falls off, it’s a virtual guarantee that he gets a QO a year from now. It’s not like he’s a one-year wonder who came out of the blue to post a CY Young caliber season. This is his third straight season of solid production. Sure, injuries can happen to anyone – but I can’t envision his performance falling off a cliff to the point where he doesn’t deserve a QO.

        As for 1 yr rentals, that’s for the Mets’ GM to take care of. It just takes one team to give up an elite OF prospect for a pitcher who might have $20MM in surplus value next year (plus a draft pick as compensation). I can’t recall the last time a pitcher was available in the off-season with a 1-year contract that had this much excess value.

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      • Stinky says:

        as to your assertion that there isn’t any FA starter in RAD’s ballpark at that price, some teams would prefer to pay more than to deal away good prospects.

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    • Tomcat says:

      The Yankees just made one to a soon to be 38yo who doesn’t have a Knuckleball to fall back on

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      • Spike says:

        remains to be seen what kind of season Dickey has at 38 before one can conclude that his team (whichever one) would make him a QC. The point is that it’s much less a sure thing than it would be for a player 10 yrs younger.

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    • BurleighGrimes says:

      $13/year for even 2011 Dickey would be a bargain. I would put money on Dickey getting a qualifying offer after this year if he isn’t extended.

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    • joser says:

      Dickey doesn’t have the wear on his arm that most 38-year-old pitchers do, and knuckleballers seem to be able to pitch forever anyway. Granted, he’s a knuckleballer like perhaps none before him — he throws the angry knuckleball — so he may not be quite as immortal as a Phil Niekro (who pitched until he was forty-eight) but he very likely has more than one effective year left in him.

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  4. attgig says:

    ” It’s all just a matter of price, as it pretty much always is.”

    and YEARS. especially for a 38 year old hard throwing knuckleballer.

    from what I read, they seemed to be amicable on $’s/year (15mil), but mets were offering 2 years, and dickey wanted 4.

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    • Spike says:

      and they’ll probably settle on 3. I assume the 3rd yr g’tee is what will hold up the works. I’m sure the Mets would like to make it some sort of option.

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  5. Chris says:

    He’s not paid enough for the Royals to be interested.

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  6. tyke says:

    he might have another good/great year next year and then get overpaid by the team the mets trade him to, but that team would be okay with that to an extent because he only makes $5m this year (thus building surplus value), right?

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  7. boom shakalaka says:

    Peter Bourjos!?! are you kindding me? Why do people think he is so great? This is the same Peter Bourjos people were saying the Mets should trade David Wright for last year. Am I missing something? Is Bourjos Mike Trout’s slightly less talented cousin?

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    • antonio bananas says:

      I’m with you. Yea he’s just 25 and cost controlled, but he’s probably at his ceiling. Maybe a higher walk rate, but his skill is literally just speed.

      For Dickey, I’d say one B+ rated AA or AAA prospect plus one raw high upside C+ rated R/A/A+ pick plus an organizational filler AAAA guy.

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      • Dario says:

        Isn’t that what Peter Boujos was, a B+ rated AA prospect? I mean, if you can find me a better deal that nets us a CFer, then I’m all for it. Bourjos plus prospects-Kole Calhoun- would make me happy.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      I don’t get the Bourjos love either. If he’s on your team, it’s nice to get the cheap labor. But he’s not the type of guy you go out of your way to trade for. I feel like he’s the type of player you can get on a fairly cheap deal. His skills are undervalued, and is he really any better than someone like Carlos Gomez? You don’t give up an Ace with a great 1-year contract for Carlos Gomez.

      As for bananas, I’d pick the over on that deal. All it takes is one team to give up too much. They got Wheeler for 2 months of Beltran @ $16MM/year, and not many teams were in on Beltran. Every team will want Dickey on that contract, so I’d think one team would go above and beyond to secure him.

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  8. nitro2831 says:

    All I can say is, as a Mets fan, a Dickey trade would be a betrayal. There would be a similar fan reaction to the Knicks letting Jeremy Lin go, which was met with vitriol and a large exodus to Brooklyn Nets fandom.

    From the on-the-field perspective: the Mets could have a legitimately great rotation next season. Dickey is obviously great, Niese is good and could be very good, Johan obviously has the potential to very good, Matt Harvey was phenomenal as a rookie, Gee is a quite good back-end starter, and we have some minor league prospects in Wheeler and Familia who could be ready soon. Even if a couple of these guys don’t pan out, this is still, at worst, an above-average rotation. With that rotation, David Wright and three good young players around the infield, there is definitely a legitimate shot at the playoffs. Are the Mets the cream of the crop in the NL? No. But it really shouldn’t shock anyone if they are in the playoff hunt late in the year. This isn’t the Cubs or the Astros.

    Why would a team give up it’s most beloved player in years, when losing him would mean moving from a decent enough opportunity at the playoffs to basically having no shot, whilst gaining at best a pretty good prospect who will almost certainly never add the sort of value Dickey can add this season.

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    • Kampfer says:

      I agree with you. The Mets has a legitimate rotation. If they can stay healthy, they may get a shot; and if they make it into the playoff, their rotation may sail them to a title(see 2010 Giants).

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    • jpg says:

      Not to pick on you but you sound like my fellow Mets fans friends. This fantasy that the Mets are a year or two away or a player or two away from becoming a factor needs to stop. This team has 75 win talent. They need to upgrade C, 2B, all three outfield positions, get a better year from Ike and continued improvement from Tejada. That’s asking a lot. And that’s assuming they pitch well. The owner has shown no indication that the payroll is returning to previous levels. This team couldn’t win 80 games getting almost 8 fWAR from Wright and a Cy Young caliber year from Dickey. Who are we competing with? Saying they “aren’t Houston” isn’t exactly setting a high bar. It kills me to say it but it’s time to deal Wright and Dickey and rebuild. Hopefully, in the next couple of years, Wilpon can either get his shit together and return the payroll back to the $140M range where it belongs or he is forced to sell the team to someone who will. Hopefully by then we’ll have a good cheap core to supplement with free agents.

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      • Jack Strawb says:

        Yup.

        It’s ridiculous to claim the Mets are anything other than a major overhaul away from contending. Any scenario that even gets them to 81 games depends on the rotation pitching optimally and staying very, very healthy. That rarely happens.

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      • Jack Strawb says:

        “81 wins”.

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  9. Rags says:

    I’m a Mets fan, a Dickey fan (and one of those aforementioned betrayed Jeremy Lin fans), and I want to see him get paid.

    This might not be a major thing but there’s also value for Dickey to stay in New York. He just published a book, been in a movie, and has another three (I think) book deal coming. Not that you can’t publish books from Anaheim or Arlington or wherever, but the added exposure of being in NYC is probably putting very real dollars into his pocket.

    At least that’s what I tell myself as I cry myself to sleep every night at the thought of him leaving…

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    • Calogero says:

      – So you must be pretty upset after the Mets traded Dickey.

      – Sandy Alderson – I hate him. He made R.A. Dickeycry. The paper said that Dickey was crying.

      – R.A. Dickey? Is that what you’re upset about? R.A. Dickeymakes $5,000,000 a year. How much does your father make?

      – I don’t know.

      – You don’t know? We’ll see if your father can’t pay the rent. Go and ask Dickey and see what he tells you. R.A. Dickey don’t care about you, so why should you care about him?

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  10. Scott says:

    I have been a Met fan since 68 (thats alot of disappointment). If you look at this team honestly, aside from Wright and maybe Davis (cross fingers), there is nobody in the batting order worth talking about. At this rate, by the time we have enough bats to contend, Dickey will be collecting social security.
    The time is right to trade him. We just have to hope Alderson makes up for the Pagan trade last year.

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  11. MrKnowNothing says:

    how often to GMs go out and gauge the trade value of a guy like Dickey, not just to obviously see what they might get, but to get a better read on what teams might offer him for a contract?

    if you try to trade him and see that everyone is offering a poor package, you might reasonably expect that he may not get a big contract offer when he’s a free agent.

    if you see someone offering Trout and three other prospects, you know that he’s likely gonna get a huge contract when he’s a free agent.

    ultimately, whether you trade him or not, it gives the team a little bit more information to use as leverage when making dickey a contract offer.

    maybe they’d normally offer him $10, thinking that’s fair, but because of trade gauging they’ve determined that the best offer he’ll likely get from other teams is $7, so now they can offer him $9, and even if he shops around, he can come back to the mets knowing they made him a good, fair offer, and weren’t trying to “screw him over.” in that sense, they can more or less remove some of the infamous “mystery team” leverage that crops up.

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  12. Dario says:

    I’m a Mets fan and I really like R.A. Dickey, but I would like to win more than I would like to see R.A. Dickey pitch. If the Mets could spend cash, then you keep Dickey and fill in the holes at C, and OF through FA, but that is just not the reality of the situation.

    The Mets are two years away assuming that Alderson can spend again once Johan’s and Bay’s contracts(not sure what the restucturing is with him) expire. Dickey brings a lot of uncertainty two to three years from now.

    I’m sick of the over sentimentality in the NY fan base when they in the same breath demand winning baseball. If you have deep pockets, you can afford both, but we can’t so pick one. Alderson better capitalize on Dickey’s surplus value.

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    • Jack Strawb says:

      The Mets can’t ‘spend cash’, though, and won’t as long as the Wilpons are in charge, so we’re in it for the enjoyment of seeing players like Dickey play.

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  13. BklynCowpoke says:

    There isn’t a bigger R.A. Dickey fan out there than me. That being said, I believe it is a must for the Mets to trade him if the right prospects come on the table. We must look to the future as Met fans; and this is one of the few ways we have to make a successful future become a reality for this organization.

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  14. Dave G. says:

    Seems like Fangraphs always loves to push Bourjos on the Mets (see Cameron’s ridiculous article which stated Wright for Bourjos was a equal trade) when the guy is just not good. Don’t care how good the D is, he can’t hit and he’s a back-up.

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  15. Dan the Mets Fan says:

    Bourjos and Conger would makes sense. They want an OF and C for Dickey (at least, so say anonymous teams officials). I think it would be a reasonable deal for both teams – no stars for Mets but potential solid players. Angels can afford to lose those two and get a potential one-year of ace-level pitching.

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  16. rick j says:

    Keep Dickey. The people writing off the Mets in 2013 don’t know much about baseball. They won 74 somehow last year with a zombie bullpen and black holes all throughout the lineup (Bay, Ike-first half, Catcher). With some breaks they could make the playoffs next year.

    I’d rather seem them trade some of the excess prospects for a decent catcher or stud CF then trade Dickey. This team could win 90+ next year with just a few breaks.

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    • DrDooby says:

      Good pitching can change things in a hurry.
      With Dickey, a full season of Matt Harvey, Johan Santana another year removed from shoulder surgery, plus Niese & Gee with several high ceiling arms at AAA, the Mets rotation has the potential to be very good if they can avoid injuries.
      The Infield is alright as well with Davis – Murphy (who improved defensively as the season went along) – Tejada – Wright.
      The C suffered from Thole´s concussion and the lack of a reliable backup for most of the season.
      The OF was atrocious mostly.
      And the bullpen was unreliable and often terrible too.
      The latter problem can be attacked with the pitching depth that´s about to reach the majors. Usually, good bullpens are built from within and not by signing veteran free agents. Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia and others may well be answers to the bullpen problems – and soon.
      The OF needs to be remodeld. Kirk Nieuwenhuis is alright as the CF vs. RHP. Lucas Duda´s bat – if it rebounds to 2011 levels – is good enough to stick him in LF with a strong defensive caddy around. If they bring back Scott Hairston, he´d be a nice platoon mate for Duda.
      Still, a new fulltime RF needs to be added. Maybe a new CF with Nieuwenhuis switching elsewhere.

      This is a generally young team and odds are that players collectively improve than regress.

      So, the Mets should be open minded regarding Dickey.
      If someone makes a very strong offer that figures to help the Mets structurally going forward, by 2014 the latest, then sure consider it.
      However, Peter Bourjos as the centerpiece of a package seems to shoot quite low for now.

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  17. Chris K says:

    Scott Baker refused a 9/mil offer from the Twins. Yeah who? If a pitcher of a Who caliber wants more than 9mil a year then CY Young caliber has beyond $10 coming to him. Heck A.Sanchez wants 15mil/yr! Mets are screwed with this 5mil option. They want to ship him then take the risk of signing him with their pitching prospects. His market value should be approaching 16-21mil a yr.
    Pretty much what a boils down to is either Mets pay him or you take a trade that Will Not bring a return one would expect! Any good owner will know Dickey becomes a free agent next season and can just pay him without letting the Mets loot their top prospects. It’s just a no-win situation for the Mets/Mets fans. The only guarantee win is that at 5mil for this season the Mets have arguably the best ARM for value in all of MLB!

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