Toronto Blue Jays Make R.A. Dickey Deal Official With Contract Extension

By Thom Tsang
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Just like that, the deal’s done.

No fuss, no leveraging, and no more waiting: R.A. Dickey is a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Given 72 hours to negotiate a contract extension with their coveted knuckleballer, the Blue Jays closed the deal with Dickey in considerably less time, with both sides agreeing to a two-year, $25 million contract extension that will see Dickey be guaranteed a total of $30 million dollars over the next three years.

Despite having considerable leverage as the man who could have easily scuttled the deal, Dickey did not ask of Toronto any more than what he ask of the New York Mets.

In fact, you might even say he facilitated the negotiation process, even agreeing to sign up to a surprising option year for 2016 at a very reasonable price:

3/30, and a team option? Yes, I think that’s a good deal for the Blue Jays indeed.

According to Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star, part of why this negotiation came to a close so quickly stems from Dickey wanting to join a contending team; hell, you might even say he wanted to join the contending team – as of writing, Bodog has the Blue Jays as the odds-on favorites to win the World Series in 2013, with 8-to-1 odds that slightly edge out the west coast powerhouse duo consisting of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels.

Somewhat lost in the excitement, of course, is the fact that the Blue Jays gave up a hefty price to become – at least on paper – championship contenders. Yes, there’s even a very compelling argument to be made that GM Alex Anthopulos overpaid to make it happen.

The complete deal between the Blue Jays and the Mets break down like so: Toronto will send Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, John Buck, and Wuilmer Becerra to New York, in exchange for Dickey, Josh Thole, and Mike Nickeas. We’ve all heard about the principal players, but what about the peripheral pieces in the deal?

The thing you need to know about Josh Thole is that well…he’s not very good. The 26-year old features below-average defense behind the plate, and has hit for a paltry .261/.331/.333 over 1026 PA in his career; that said, he does possess experience with catching the knuckleball – and more importantly, R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball. It would not be a surprise if the Blue Jays employ a personal catcher pairing between the two, at least to start the 2013 season.

The other “prospect” coming to Toronto’s way is nothing to get too excited about, either. You might even say he’s not much of a prospect at all – Mike Nickeas is a 29-year old catcher who has put up a .180/.241/.238 at the plate in 191 PA over parts of three years…but on the other hand, he’s Canadian! That counts for something, right? No? Okay.

If you’re wondering, “what’s with Anthopoulos’ deal with catchers this offseason?” You’re not wrong: since the end of the 2012 season, the Blue Jays have parted ways with six catchers – Jeff Mathis, Yorvit Torrealba, Yan Gomes, Bobby Wilson, John Buck, and Eli Whiteside – and the team still carries four backstops on the 40-man roster after this trade (J.P. Arencibia, Thole, Nickeas, A.J. Jiminez). Arencibia’s job is fairly secure for now, but at the rate at which Anthopoulos is dealing catchers…he might want to watch his back, that’s all.

As for the previously-unnamed piece that Toronto is parting with, Wuilmer Becerra is an 18-year old outfielder who was considered one of the team’s top signings out of Venezuela, and profiles at the low-end among the top-30 prospects in the Blue Jays system. Becerra was named the 5th best international free agent by Baseball America at the time of his signing (July 2011), and played just 11 games for the Gulf Coast Blue Jays in 2012 before his season ended with a broken jaw after the first-year pro was hit in the fact with a pitch.

Nothing that would be considered a deal-breaker, of course; but certainly more promising that Nickeas.

All of this, of course, is the price that Anthopoulos has chosen to pay to turn the Blue Jays into contenders – even favorites; and when you put it that way, it doesn’t really sound that bad, right? Yes, the rebuilding Mets got a hell of a good deal for Dickey, but Dickey was the last piece to the Blue Jays pitching puzzle that would send the rotation over the top. Fair or not – it’s a deal that serves the needs of both teams, and one that will likely work out for both. Shocking, right?

Sure, d’Arnaud and Syndergaard could come back to bite the Blue Jays with a whole lot of regret if they become superstars in the last 2010’s, but all of that would have been worthwhile if the Blue Jays can end the playoff/championship drought that has dogged this team – and city – for almost two decades.

The Blue Jays are poised to do just that, with Dickey’s presence solidifying the rotation over at least the next three years. You could argue that Alex Anthopoulos didn’t need to acquire the 38-year old at such a price; that he was tempted by a win-now attitude; but yet, the Blue Jays core isn’t locked in with long-term contracts. The team is committed to no one for more than the next five years – if it doesn’t work, the clean-up won’t be nearly as messy or as daunting as trying to move contracts like Vernon Wells.

Besides, isn’t winning the reason why Anthopoulos was hired for this job to begin with? Maybe it’s okay to put away the cynicism, and just give this winning thing a chance.

Flags fly forever, after all.

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