The New York Mets sent R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays in a seven-player swap, trading away the National League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner one year after parting ways with batting champion Jose Reyes.
Dickey yesterday agreed on a three-year, $29 million contract with the Blue Jays that cleared the way for the trade to be completed, the Major League Baseball team said in a statement. The deal includes a $12 million team option for 2016.
Dickey, 38, had a 20-6 record with a 2.73 earned run average for the Mets last season, becoming the first knuckleballer in major league history to win a Cy Young award as his league’s best pitcher. He joins David Cone, Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens as the only Cy Young winners to be traded the offseason after receiving the award.
“I’m hopeful in coming years that our overall popularity will be more a function of our success than individuals,” Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson told reporters. “This is an entertainment business and it was great to have R.A. here. And yet we felt in the best interest of the organization that this was the right thing to do.”
Catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas also were sent to Toronto, while the Mets received two of the Blue Jays’ top prospects in catcher Travis d’Arnaud and right-handed pitcher Noah Syndergaard. New York also got catcher John Buck and 18- year-old minor-league outfielder Wuilmer Becerra, the Mets said in an e-mailed statement.
Clemens was the last pitcher dealt following a Cy Young- winning season, going from Toronto to the New York Yankees in 1999. A year earlier, Martinez was traded to the Boston Red Sox from the Montreal Expos, and in 1995 Cone joined the Blue Jays from the Kansas City Royals.
Catfish Hunter, Mark Davis and Greg Maddux changed clubs as free agents after winning Cy Youngs.
Dickey last season became the Mets’ first Cy Young recipient since Dwight Gooden in 1985 and the franchise’s first 20-game winner since Frank Viola in 1990. His 230 strikeouts led the NL.
Dickey’s 2012 performance was one of the few bright spots during a season in which the Mets finished 74-88, 24 games behind the Washington Nationals in the National League East. They missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season and 11th in the last 12. Last offseason, the Mets dealt Reyes to the Miami Marlins for two draft picks.
Dickey had a 39-28 record with a 2.95 ERA in three seasons with the Mets after going 22-28 with a 5.43 ERA over his first seven years in the majors. Alderson said it was a privilege to have Dickey on the team.
“The final chapter has not been written, but it has been an extraordinary career, arcing from disappointment to jubilation,” Alderson said.
Dickey joins a Toronto starting pitching rotation that features Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero. The Blue Jays acquired Johnson and Buehrle from the Marlins last month along with Reyes and outfielder Emilio Bonifacio. Melky Cabrera, an All-Star who batted .346 last season with the San Francisco Giants prior to a performance- enhancing drug ban, also signed with Toronto.
The Blue Jays went 73-89 last season, 22 games back of the American League East Division-winning Yankees.
“We just felt we were so close to contention, this is a deal we had to make,” Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopolous said of adding Dickey.
D’Arnaud, 23, is Toronto’s top prospect and Syndergaard, 20, ranks third, according to Baseball America. Both are former first-round draft picks.
D’Arnaud was drafted 37th by Philadelphia in 2007 and traded to Toronto as part of the deal that brought Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay to the Phillies. In 67 games with Triple-A Las Vegas last season, he hit .333 with 16 home runs and 52 runs batted in. D’Arnaud missed the final two months of the season after tearing a ligament in his left knee.
D’Arnaud was voted the Eastern League’s Most Valuable Player in 2011 after hitting .311 with 33 doubles, 21 home runs, 78 runs batted in and 72 runs scored.
“His upside is such that he could be a significant player for us over the next many years,” Alderson said. “We understand he has not done anything at the major league level, but given his ceiling, his position and what we think he can do, he can be a difference-maker.”
Syndergaard, 20, was selected 38th by Toronto in the 2010 draft. In Single-A play last season in Lansing, Michigan, he went 8-5 with a 2.60 ERA, striking out 122 while walking 31. Alderson said Syndergaard is a “very high-ceiling power pitcher” who could make his major league debut in 2014 or 2015.
Buck, 32, has 48 homers over the past three seasons, the third-most in the majors among catchers behind Brian McCann (63) and Matt Wieters (53). Buck was an All-Star in 2010, when he hit 20 home runs and drove in 66 runs for the Blue Jays, though he hit just .192 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs in 106 games for the Marlins last season.
Becerra, who’s from Venezuela and is the son of former St. Louis Cardinals scout Wilmer Becerra, appeared in 11 games with the rookie-level Gulf Coast Blue Jays last season and hit .250 with four doubles and four RBIs.
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