- Adam Rubin, ESPNNewYork.com
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NEW YORK -- Reigning NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey says if the New York Mets choose to bring him back next season solely on the remaining year of his contract, he almost certainly will leave next winter as a free agent.
The 38-year-old knuckleballer also insisted during Tuesday's holiday party at Citi Field for schoolchildren affected by Hurricane Sandy that he is asking for a far-below-market-value extension on top of the club's 2013 obligation, so he is disheartened by the slow pace of negotiations.
"It's hard," Dickey said. "When people say it's business, it's not personal, well, that just means it's not personal for them. I'm hoping it ends up in a good place, but also in the back of your mind you think it may not. That's sad."
Sources told ESPN.com early Tuesday morning that the Mets are prepared to offer Dickey two years at $20 million on top of the $5 million owed in 2013. Dickey seeks a combined $26 million to $28 million for 2014 and '15, sources added.
"In the context of the market, you want what you think is fair," Dickey said. "I feel like we're asking for less than what's fair because that's how it's been for me. There is a surprise sometimes when things don't get done quickly and you already think you're extending the olive branch. At the same time, they have a budget they have to adhere to. I don't know those numbers. And I try not to take it personally."
The Mets have three options: trade Dickey, sign him to an extension, or let him enter 2013 in the final year of his current contract. Both sides have said Dickey playing out next season without an extension is the least attractive option, but an option nonetheless.
Dickey laid down the gauntlet on that option Tuesday, saying he likely would depart as a free agent if the Mets chose to have him pitch next season without an extension.
"If that's the decision they feel like is best for the club, and that's the decision that they make, I feel like it would be unfortunate, because it probably is going to mean I'm not going to be back (in 2014)," Dickey said.
The knuckleballer reiterated he will not negotiate during the 2013 season.
"I'm so close to free agency, and I don't want any distractions," Dickey said.
General manager Sandy Alderson said Tuesday that there could be a resolution shortly, because the market for free-agent pitchers is thinning and trade routes are becoming clearer.
"Things are ongoing," Alderson said. "We continue to talk to R.A., and specifically his agent, and there's some progress being made there. Obviously, at the same time, we'll talk to some other clubs and keep R.A. to some extent apprised of those conversations. We're in a similar place today to where we were last week. But the surrounding circumstances have changed somewhat. So I hope we'll have more clarity in a few days. In the meantime, we're more or less status quo."
Said Dickey: "We are progressing, albeit slowly, hopefully on an extension. So that's happening. So I don't know if I can tell you one way or the other. . . . I feel a real connection to this place. At the same time, you don't want to be taken advantage of. So that's where we kind of are."
R.A. Dickey said that if the Mets don't work out an extension before the season, he'll walk as a free agent after it.