At Home Plate: Trading Dickey is Mets’ best option

In the history of the Cy Young Award, only five reigning winners have pitched the following season with a different team.

Mark Davis (1989) and Greg Maddux (1992) signed free agent deals with the Royals and Braves, respectively, the year after taking home the award. Just three have been traded prior to the next season: David Cone (1994), Pedro Martinez (1997) and Roger Clemens (1999).

R. A. Dickey, the 2012 NY Cy Young Award winner, may join them.

R.A. Dickey (Photo by Paul Hadsall, used under Creative Commons License)

R.A. Dickey (Photo by Paul Hadsall, used under Creative Commons License)

The Mets are in a tough bind concerning Dickey. Dickey wants to stay in New York because he feels a sense of loyalty to the organization that finally gave him a second chance. Dickey has made the most of this chance, going 39-28 with a 2.95 ERA and 468 strikeouts in three seasons with the Mets.

The problem here is that Dickey is 38 years old and is seeking a two- or three-year contract extension. As it stands now, the Mets have Dickey under team control for 2013 since the team exercised a $5.25 million option.

Having a 20-game winner earn $5.25 million is a complete bargain. Both Dickey and the Mets know that he is worth much more per year, and that’s why the sides have been negotiating to work out a contract extension.

The sides appear to be far apart in terms of dollars at this point, which has caused Mets general manager Sandy Alderson to seek any potential trades for the knuckleballer. At least eight teams have inquired about Dickey, but the asking price for the reigning Cy Young winner is extremely high.

From the Mets perspective, trading Dickey now when his value is the highest might be the best option. The Mets have plenty of holes to fill in the outfield and at catcher and may be able to acquire at least two impact players in a deal for Dickey.

The Mets actually have some depth at starting pitcher. Matt Harvey burst onto the scene last year and, and prospect Zack Wheeler is expected to make his professional debut soon. Dillon Gee is a steady option, and a healthy Johan Santana is still a force. Lefty Jon Niese has tremendous upside, but even his name has been mentioned in trade rumors.

With David Wright’s $138 million contract extension, the Mets have shown they aren’t afraid to open their wallet, despite the financial scandals surrounding the team in the recent past. However, would the Mets shell out a lucrative long-term deal for a 38-year-old after breaking the bank with Wright?

If the Mets head into the season with Dickey but no contract extension, the team will basically be setting itself up for disaster. If the Mets fall out of contention early, they’ll look to trade Dickey, but his value will not nearly be what it is now. But if the Mets do contend, Dickey may walk next offseason in free agency, since the Mets were unwilling to pay him now.

Fans may find it absurd to deal the only bright spot from a bleak 2012 Mets season. But from a baseball standpoint, a deal for Dickey would be in the best interest of the franchise.

The Mets were a fourth place team with Dickey winning 20 games, and with not many roster changes on the horizon, how much better can things get even with Dickey back in the fold?

But in looking for trade partners, the Mets need to ensure that they will be getting Major League-ready talent. To deal Dickey for unproven yet highly-touted prospects might be too much of a risk for such a prized possession.

The Mets have a difficult Dickey decision looming, and that’s why the process has been so drawn out to start the offseason.

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