Block Busted: Blue Jays Officially Get R.A. Dickey From Mets

Welcome to the Toronto Blue Jays! - US Presswire

The New York Mets send RHP R.A. Dickey, C Josh Thole, and C Mike Nickeas to the Toronto Blue Jays for C Travis d'Arnaud, C John Buck, and RHP Noah Syndergaard. Dickey is now signed for three years, giving him $29 million with a $12 million club option for 2016.

Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero. Read that again, this time out loud: Buehrle, Dickey, Johnson, Morrow, Romero. That will be the Toronto Blue Jays' starting rotation in 2013. They are listed in alphabetical order because who really cares who is the #1, #2, #3, #4, or #5? The Toronto Blue Jays--our Toronto Blue Jays--has the best starting rotation in Major League Baseball. J.A. Happ will be bumped into the swingman role.

How can fans not be excited at this trade that could very well put the Blue Jays over the top and into the playoffs in 2013. Earlier this year, Blue Jays President Paul Beeston promised fans that the club would make it into the playoffs two or three times in the next five seasons--the Jays still need to play 162 games to decide that, but it looks like the organization is trying to keep that vow. Let's recap the trade in tabular form, note that there is no cash involved in this blockbuster:

To Toronto Blue Jays
To New York Mets

RHP R.A. Dickey

C Travis d’Arnaud

C Josh Thole

C John Buck

C Mike Nickeas

RHP Noah Syndergaard

OF Wuilmer Becerra

Rumours of Dickey heading to Toronto have been circulating all offseason but came to a crescendo this past Friday when it was announced that the Texas Rangers were no longer interested in trading for the right hander. Rumours continued to be floated all weekend and throughout Monday. According to Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who spoke on Prime Time Sports, the deal was basically done on Thursday, before any of the leaks started.

Robert Allen Dickey, 38, had a career year for the Metropolitans in 2012, finishing with a 20-6 record (on a 74-88 club), 2.73 ERA (140 ERA+) , and 8.9 K/9 (a number that rose dramatically in 2012) en route to his first Cy Young Award. The apex of the season came on June 13 and June 18 when Dickey threw back-to-back one-hitters against the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles. Dickey averaged just over 7 innings per start last year, and over the past three seasons he has averaged 6.2 innings per start and still enjoyed a 2.95 ERA.

Dickey gives the Blue Jays another 200-inning pitcher in their starting rotation to go along with Johnson and Buehrle, which would hopefully give some stability to both the starting and bullpen staff, something that was severely lacking in 2012. It is rare to be able to acquire a pitcher of his abilities, so the Blue Jays pounced on it when they saw the chance.

After agreeing to the deal in principle, the Blue Jays had an opportunity to discuss a possible deal with the knuckleballer, whose Mets contract would've made him a free agent after the 2013. Anthopoulos, along with manager John Gibbons, and a Blue Jays scout, flew down to meet Dickey at his Nashville home and the two sides quickly shook hands on a new deal.

Essentially, a two-year, $24 million extension was tacked on to Dickey's old contract, which pays him $5 million in 2013. Over the upcoming three seasons, he will average $9.67 million per year. The extension also includes a $12 million club option for the 2016 season, as tradition in Anthopoulos signings, which can be bought out for $1 million, thereby guaranteeing Dickey $30 million overall--part of the contract figure will be paid out as a signing bonus, giving the Dickey family some extra cash to spend before Christmas. Compare this to the six-year $147 million contract the Los Angeles Dodgers gave to Zack Greinke and the five-year, $80 million the Detroit Tigers have guaranteed to Anibal Sanchez.

The newest Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher is on Twitter (@RADickey43) and recently tweeted out thanks for his fans' support and to say that he is "looking forward to a new chapter with the Jays."

Toronto also adds catcher Josh Thole to the fold. I wrote about him earlier:

But what about the other named piece that have been attached to this blockbuster? Josh Thole (pronounced toll-ey), 26, had been the Mets' starting catcher for the past two seasons. In his first 200 or so games in the Majors (2009-2011) he hit a decent (for a catcher) .276/.350/.356, but his line in 2012 was .234/.294/.290, dropping his wRC+ to a paltry 60. That's like turning from Russel Martin into Brayan Pena. What happened? A look into his game logs on Baseball-Reference reveals that he had a typical start at the plate in 2012, hitting .284/.346/.370 in his first 92 PA. However, on May 7 in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies, he suffered a concussion in a collision with Ty Wigginton. Thole missed almost a full month, not returning until June 1. From then on for the rest of the season, he hit .217/.273/.263. Rob Castellano over at Amazin' Avenue did a much more thorough analysis and also questioned whether the offensive collapse was related to his injury.

Thole, assuming he regresses back to career averages, should be an offensive upgrade from last year's backup catcher Jeff Mathis, and comparable to John Buck, trading power for on-base abilities. Thole will probably be a downgrade from Mathis behind the plate, with Thole not being able to throw out baserunners. One positive is that he has experience catching knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, but he did allow 13 of his 18 passed balls with Dickey on the mound. An interesting question is how he and J.P. Arencibia would split time in 2013.

The "non-elite" prospect in the trade rumours was unveiled to be Vancouver-born catcher Mike Nickeas. Nickeas spent 2012 splitting time between the AAA Buffalo Bisons, where he hit .364/.405/.500 in 75 plate appearances (22 games), and the Mets, where that slash line dropped to .174/.242/.229 through 122 plate appearances (47 games). It is likely that the 29-year old catcher will return to the Bisons, now the Blue Jays' AAA affiliate, for most of 2013. As someone who has caught the knuckleballer Dickey before, he will be called up in case of any injuries to Thole. Nickeas was the son of British soccer player Mark Nickeas, who played with the Vancouver Whitecaps when he had his son Mike. Nickeas has Canadian citizenship jus soli, British citizenship through his father, and also has American citizenship through his mother.

Going to the Big Apple are two top prospects in Travis d'Arnaud, who is on the Mets' 40-man roster, and Noah Syndergaard, who was reportedly added to their Florida State League (Advanced-A) affiliate. The other "non-elite" prospect in the deal, Wuilmer Becerra, is just 18 years old and had snuck onto Jays Journal's top-30 prospect list for 2013. John Sickels' evaluation of the three youngsters can be found over at Minor League Ball. Also going to the Mets is catcher John Buck, who is actually going to be making $1 million more in salary than R.A. Dickey next season.

d'Arnaud and Syndergaard are now the Mets' #1 and #3 prospects, respectively, so Alex Anthopoulos did have to give up a lot to get his new #1 starter. If the Blue Jays do get into the playoffs, and contend for a World Series title, then this trade would be worth it, no matter how d'Arnaud and Syndergaard do going forward.

We will look at the impact on the Blue Jays' farm system later in the week, but for now, we can be happy that the Blue Jays are in a "win now" formation, and will have a very strong Major League team next year. Dickey, Johnson, Morrow, Janssen, Delabar, Bautista, Encarnacion, Reyes, Cabrera, Lawrie... oh my.

This is just the beginning of Bluebird Banter's coverage of the acquisition of R.A. Dickey--stay tuned for more!
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