Photos by Anthony Gruppuso-US PREWIRE / Photo editing: Minor Leaguer
Bluebird Banter writer leaflover4ever documents her journey from hating the R.A. Dickey trade to loving it so much her heart could burst.
On Friday afternoon, rumours began to start pouring into my Twitter feed regarding R.A. Dickey and the Blue Jays. I chose to ignore these rumours. "There are three other teams involved," I said to myself, "and besides: how often do rumours about the Blue Jays actually end up being true? Nothing's going to come of this."
How very wrong I was.
The next thing we were hearing was that our precious baby catcher, Travis d'Arnaud, was likely to be included in the trade. This was when I began to care, and my reaction was far from positive. "How can you trade d'Arnaud, Alex!!!" I said in my head. "He's the catcher of the future! He was born to save us from bad defense and horrible OBP!"
Eventually I came around. "If we're giving up Travis d'Arnaud already, maybe we should give up Gose too. Then we could get Matt Harvey!" (yes, you may laugh at me).
As Saturday wore on we learned that it was Noah Syndergaard, rather than Anthony Gose, that was to be included in the package. I spent more time thinking about the pros and cons of the deal as it was reported at the time: I liked keeping Gose for obvious reasons, but I was hoping for a lot more coming this way from the Mets (Josh Thole's sparkly smile makes up for it, though. Certainly a candidate for the All Hot Team). After the passage of more time in which I was supposed to be studying, I decided I liked the trade. And not only liked it: "loved it so much my heart could burst."
The following were my conclusions, and are why I give this move my total support:
1) The Value of Marginal Wins
Here's the thing, y'all: I want the Blue Jays to win. In order for the Blue Jays to win in the AL East, they need to be great. Even in a year that is shaping up to be a window of opportunity, with each of the teams in the division (with the possible exception of the Orioles, though I believe their 2012 was based almost entirely on luck) looking weaker than they have in quite some time, winning the division or one of the wild card spots is certainly not a walk in the park. And it's here that the marginal wins provided by R.A. Dickey will be so important.
After the trade for Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buehrle, the Blue Jays pulled themselves up into what I am going to call The Zone of Contention. Alex Anthopoulos had set the team up to be a very good one--how many wins they were going to get is, of course impossible to know, but it was the general consensus that the post-trade Blue Jays would be in a close race with Tampa Bay for the division, and that the Yankees would not be far behind. Adding a pitcher like Dickey gives the Jays the extra boost they may very well need to clinch themselves a playoff spot. Is a spot guaranteed? Not by any means. But the addition of R.A. Dickey and his wins above replacement will probably be a big positive.
2) The Window is Open
This, I think, is the most important point to be made in any argument supporting the trade. Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Buehrle, and Jose Reyes are all nearing their decline years, and if the Blue Jays want to win with the current core (and avoid another rebuilding cycle with nothing to show for it) now is truly the time to do it. The AL East is as vulnerable now as it may ever be, with the Yankees aging, the Red Sox rebuilding, the Rays trading away a very good pitcher (in exchange for a very good prospect--but he likely won't make huge contributions for a couple of years) and the Orioles being unlikely to repeat what they did last year (but their weakness shouldn't be counted on forever, if you're a believer in Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman).
I believe (based entirely on scouting reports) that Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard will both be valuable big leaguers, and in d'Arnaud's case, very soon. However, they are not what the Blue Jays need right now, in Go For It mode. Both d'Arnaud and (mostly) Syndergaard will not reach their peak value until after the Jays current window has closed.
The sum of all these factors as they stand right now is a clear three-year window in which the Blue Jays can be serious contenders not only for the playoffs, but for the World Series. It would be unwise to pass up on such an opportunity, especially in a division as hostile as the AL East. Advantages must be taken!
3) Winning is Always Good
This doesn't need much explanation: if the team wins more games, the fans will buy more things. When the fans buy more things, revenues go up. When revenues go up, so does spending on free agents, contract extensions, and various other things that will make this team better. The hope is that with sustained winning, the Blue Jays will be able to spend like the large market team that they are, and produce more sustained winning. A cycle of sustained winning and happiness! There's something I can get behind.
4) The Contract
The contract extension that Dickey signed holds incredible value for the Blue Jays, and should not be forgotten in any analysis of the trade. If he produces 2 or more WAR in 2014 and 15, his deal is worth it (over the last three seasons he's been worth 3.4, 3.1, and 5.6 rWAR), and he only needs to be worth one win to for his $5 million in 2013 to not be an overpayment from a monetary standpoint (obviously we're all hoping he's worth a lot more than 1 WAR). And as if all that isn't enough, he signed a club option for 2016 worth another $12 million, with a $1 million dollar buyout, providing even more control and value to the Blue Jays, and possibly giving the team another year of contention before a new wave of players takes over.
And last, but certainly not least:
5) Flags Fly Forever
and it's about time we raise a new one.