The RA Dickey trade between the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays is essentially done, with just a completed physical from Dickey standing in the way of approval. The Blue Jays will acquire Dickey, catcher Josh Thole, and a minor prospect for top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud, top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard, catcher John Buck, and another minor prospect. Toronto has also agreed to a two-year, $25 million extension with Dickey, making the trade more than a one year rental. Some Mets fans are bemoaning dealing the reigning NL Cy Young winner instead of keeping him as a Met for the next couple of years with an extension, but the trade really puts New York in a good position for the future. As for the Blue Jays, they continue their offseason of rebuilding, and their championship window opens a little wider with the extension they signed Dickey to.
First, I'm going to focus on the Mets. By acquiring d'Arnaud, who will be 24 in February, the team gets their catcher of the future, and someone who could be ready for the majors in 2013 depending on the health of his knee (d'Arnaud tore his PCL in June, sidelining him for the rest of the season). d'Arnaud is an absolute masher of a hitter, turning into an elite prospet during the 2011 season, when he posted a .914 OPS with 21 homers in 114 games in the AA Eastern League. Last season in 67 games in the hitter-friendly PCL with Las Vegas, d'Arnaud hit 13 homers with a .975 OPS before his injury. Ironically, the Mets AAA affiliate is now Las Vegas, and d'Arnaud could start the year there in a familiar setting to strengthen his knee and build his confidence while the veteran Buck holds the fort down behind the plate in the majors.
The Mets needed a franchise catcher, and that's a fact that no one is arguing. For a franchise that has traditionally had very strong catching depth, with Gary Carter, Todd Hundley, and Mike Piazza providing stability behind the plate over the last 30 years. New York has used no less than 17 catchers since Piazza's departure prior to the 2006 season. The best was veteran Paul Lo Duca, who provided the team with 3.7 fWAR over 243 games. Next was Thole, at 2.8 fWAR in 308 games. The only Mets catcher who had a wRC+ above 100 was long-time backup Ramon Castro, with a 102 mark in 170 games. Only Castro, Lo Duca, and Raul Casanova (in 61 plate appearances) had a wOBA above .300 during the last seven years with the Mets. That's some pretty dire production, especially when you consider that Piazza never had a wRC+ below 100 or a wOBA under .330 in a full season until his final year of 2007 with the A's. d'Arnaud might not end up being Carter, Hundley, or Piazza, but he's sure as hell going to be an improvement over Thole and the players of his ilk that the Mets have started behind the plate over the last seven seasons.
Also, getting Noah Syndergaard in this deal has to be considering a huge coup for Sandy Alderson's team. As a 19-year old in A-ball this season, Syndergaard struck out 122 while walking just 31 in 103 2/3 innings for Lansing in the Midwest League. He was part of a trio of stellar Toronto pitching prospects that has been reduced to just one after this trade and the trade earlier this offseason between the Blue Jays and Marlins that sent Justin Nicolino to Miami, leaving just Aaron Sanchez in the Toronto system. Acquiring d'Arnaud and Syndergaard in the same deal nets the Mets Toronto's #1 and #3 prospects, further bolstering a farm system that should rank among the best in baseball going into the 2013 season. With Syndergaard in the low minors, Zach Wheeler potentially making his major league debut sometime in 2013, and Matt Harvey opening eyes across the league in ten major league starts this summer, the Mets have done a hell of a job rebounding from former GM Omar Minaya's destruction of the organization with horrendous contracts and forfeited draft picks.
As for the Blue Jays, everyone knows how much this trade will help them for 2013. In Dickey, the team adds a workhorse who threw 233 2/3 innings last year. Toronto used 12 starting pitchers last season, with only Ricky Romero and the departed Henderson Alvarez coming within 100 innings of Dickey's total. While also adding another veteran workhorse in Mark Buehrle, the Blue Jays will conserve their bullpen a bit more than they did in 2012, when the pen threw 527 2/3 innings (sixth most in baseball). Adding pitchers the caliber of Dickey, Buehrle, and Josh Johnson obviously helps out a ton from a pure talent standpoint, but the boost in innings the trio will likely provide will help the Jays out a ton as well. That's an underreported benefit to the Jays' rotation makeover, and something that will help them out a lot.
Toronto's window is in the next three seasons, and Alex Anthopolous knows it. Dickey is now signed through 2015, as are Buerhle, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Romero (with the latter three all having options for 2016). And while the Blue Jays will have a higher payroll over the next couple of seasons, it's not absurdly high like that of the Dodgers. Their team isn't loaded with ugly long-term deals like the Angels are. Anthopolous has opened a window for the Blue Jays to compete right here and right now, and they're going to try to burst through it while the Yankees are aging and the Red Sox are confused about their future. This isn't the Royals mortgaging their future for a run that could turn out to be ill-fated due to other substantial holes in the team. The Blue Jays are able to compete right now, and this trade could potentially make them the favorite in the AL East, an unfamiliar place for the team in the last 20 years.