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Some Benchmarks to Remember with R.A. Dickey

Posted By Howard Megdal On December 10, 2012 @ 10:43 am In Today's Mets headlines | Comments Disabled

So we are now a week clear of the start of the winter meetings. It is December 10. There are two months plus until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, which suggests a lot of time.
But each day that passes, more outfielders sign with other teams, and the Mets still don’t employ one who should be starting a major league team. More catchers sign elsewhere, and the Mets have an incumbent with an OPS+ of 62 in 2012, and who has never hit lefties. More teams acquire starting pitching by other means, reducing the number of potential landing spots for R.A. Dickey.
The Mets have some time, in other words, but their leverage is reducing with each passing day, unless there are more teams eager to acquire a top-tier starting pitcher than there are such pitchers to fill them. But teams are moving based on their budgets and perceived availability of players. It’s time now to act. It’s not too late. But it will be soon.
As for why the Mets aren’t simply signing Dickey to roughly the two-year, $26 million extension he is seeking, your guess is as good as mine. Because look around: he’s a good bet to be value for the money if he gives back every bit of progress he made in 2012.
James Shields just netted the Tampa Bay Rays Wil Myers and three other prospects. Yes, Wade Davis went to Kansas City in the deal, too; if the Mets could have gotten that package for Dickey and their Davis equivalent, who is essentially Dillon Gee, they should have taken it and not looked back. It was easier for the Rays, who have actual pitching surplus, to do that than the Mets, who have just enough pitching, in all likelihood.
But take a look at Shields, a very good pitcher. His WAR in 2012 was 2.2, less valuable than Dickey’s 2012 by far (5.6), but also less than his 2011 (3.1) or even his 2010 (3.4) when he spent the first six weeks of the season in Triple-A. Over the past three years, collectively, Shields has been worth 5.1 WAR, Dickey 12.1.
Got that? Dickey was worth more in 2012 than Shields from 2010-12. He was also worth more collectively in 2010-11 than Shields in 2010-12.
Now look at the package it took to acquire Shields. There’s a lot of focus on what Dickey might get in return in a trade. But it is also worth considering how difficult it will be for the Mets to acquire a pitcher at Dickey’s level moving forward. They certainly couldn’t have acquired Shields. They didn’t have the prospects.
Nor could they have afforded to sign Zach Greinke, a pitcher who put up a 106 ERA+ over the past three years, in fewer innings, at the same time Dickey put up a 129 ERA+. He’s costing the Dodgers $24.5 million per season. Dickey would cost the Mets $31 million, total, over the next three seasons. Dickey could regress. So could Greinke. Is he five times likelier to be worth the money for six seasons than Dickey is for three? Or one, really, since they would be paying Dickey what aces are getting for one season, and getting three seasons of him?
It suggests that either this front office cannot properly judge what pitchers are worth on the open market right now, or that they don’t have the go-ahead to sign Dickey due to other constraints. The former seems highly unlikely. The latter seems more inevitable with every passing day that sees the Mets fail to retain Dickey, a massive value on the field, ignoring completely the gift to fans he is off the field.

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