One of the most predictable moments in sports is the dance between a player and the front office during pending free agency. The player will remind the media and fans how interested he is in staying with his current employer. The front office will profess their love in wanting to keep their star. All of the sudden the divorce happens, and both sides blame the other and move on.
The Mets are beginning the early stages of that dance with R.A. Dickey right now. Dickey's option for 2013 was picked up, and now the two sides are hoping to work on an extension. But naturally, there are long-term decisions to be made by both parties.
R.A. Dickey became the first 20-game winner for the New York Mets since Frank Viola in 1990. Dickey's season numbers were very impressive, 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, especially considering his mediocre supporting cast.
Rightly so, Dickey is looking for a big contract. But he is still a 38-year old, career journeyman that throws a knuckle ball. Dickey has been quoted as saying, "I don't want to go . . . I like being a Met." The caveat being, he likes being a Met at his price. Athletes never mention that part. They fail to remind the fan base that they like you, but only when the dollars are adequate.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has been open and honest about negotiations with Dickey. He would like to keep Dickey in Queens, but not for an obscene amount of money. Frankly, he shouldn't.
The chances that 2012 was a career year for Dickey at age 38 are much more likely than this becoming the new norm. Yes, the life of a knuckle baller's arm is typically much longer. But I don't believe that a team with this many needs and a tight budget should sign a pitcher to a contract that takes him into his early forties. That is just not smart investing.
Typically, 20-game winners receive massive contracts, which are only viable for a handful of teams. But with Dickey's option for 2013 already picked up, at a very reasonable $5 million, trading him becomes a very legitimate option for Alderson.
This could be a perfect opportunity for the Mets to buy low and sell high. Usually, the Mets are on the opposite side, buying high and selling low (see Jason Bay and a host of other overpriced, free agent signings). The Mets need an entire outfield, a bullpen, and upgrades at catcher and middle infield. If Dickey can bring multiple pieces of value, he's worth saying goodbye to.
Both camps are showing interest in continuing their relationship. But the more time that passes, the more likely it appears that Alderson is weighing his options. If that means trading Dickey, fans should embrace it. The team has improved their minor league depth, but they need even more. There are exceptions to every rule, but it's time for the front office to play the odds. The numbers lead me to believe R.A. Dickey in 2014 and 2015 will not be worth $15 million per year. Here's a chance for ownership's cheapness to benefit this team's future. I'll take my chances.
Pete is a lifelong Montauk resident and former sports talk host at 88.7FM WEER. He can be reached via email at email@example.com