Mets finally decide: No pain, no gain

12/17/2012 - MLB R.A. Dickey New York Mets + more

The consensus reaction to trading R.A. Dickey, at least on Twitter? Love it and hate it.

Sort of like the emotions of being a New York Mets fan in general.

There is no disputing Dickey is revered by the Mets' fan base -- as much for his narrative as his success, and rightly so.

A journeyman pitcher who honed the knuckleball out of desperation and who was the first castoff to Mets minor league camp during spring training in 2010, Dickey at age 37 became a first-time All-Star, the franchise's first 20-game winner since Frank Viola and a Cy Young winner while authoring a franchise-record 32.2-inning scoreless streak this past season. During 2012, he also climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and opened up in his memoir about sexual abuse he suffered as a child.

So the emotional ties to Dickey are understandable and justified.

The bottom line, though, is that the Mets authored their fourth straight fourth-place finish this past season. And with the Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies still loaded, logic suggests the Mets were destined for that spot in the standings in 2013 regardless of Dickey's presence.

So general manager Sandy Alderson, much as he did with Carlos Beltran two trading deadlines ago, held out for a big package and ultimately won. In 2011 he received right-hander Zack Wheeler, now the organization's top prospect, for Beltran. And now he will receive acclaimed catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud as well as hard-throwing Class A right-hander Noah Syndergaard in the trade with the Toronto Blue Jays for Dickey.

Wheeler and d'Arnaud very well could be the battery on Opening Day for Triple-A Las Vegas, the Mets' new affiliate, on April 4 in Sacramento, Calif. -- and in Flushing at some point during the second half of the 2013 season. And, albeit with the caution that prospects do not always materialize as envisioned, Matt Harvey and Wheeler could be joined by Syndergaard as well as fellow prospect Michael Fulmer for a stout young rotation come 2015.

That's a young, controllable nucleus that could prime the Mets for success for years to come.

Mets insiders also recently have justified the motivation to trade Dickey by suggesting he wanted to be paid as a 20-game winner, with no assurance he could duplicate that success.

Let's acknowledge what this also was, though.

For a second straight winter, Alderson has maintained the Mets are not punting the upcoming season. But that is exactly what they are doing. The only thing that likely will keep the Amazin's out of last place next season is the Miami Marlins, whose latest fire sale means Dickey now will be teammates with old friend Jose Reyes as well as Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle in Toronto.

Only three teams previously had traded a reigning Cy Young Award winner before the following Opening Day. Those teams posted a combined .489 winning percentage that next season.

The Kansas City Royals went 70-74 in 1995 after trading David Cone to the Toronto Blue Jays for Tony Medrano, David Sinnes and Chris Stynes. (Who? Exactly.)

The Montreal Expos went 66-78 in 1998 after trading Pedro Martinez to the Boston Red Sox for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas.

The Toronto Blue Jays went 84-78 in 1999 after trading Roger Clemens to the New York Yankees for David Wells, Graeme Lloyd and Homer Bush.

If the Mets were going to go in this direction, you wish it had been full bore and from the outset of Alderson's tenure. Letting Reyes walk as a free agent for draft picks rather than maximizing the haul by trading him, then re-signing Wright but trading Dickey offered a lack of singular direction and will prolong the rebuilding. (Mets people counter that Reyes was injured around the time of the All-Star break that year, diminishing the prospect for a big haul in return.)

Regardless, the Mets are now in rebuilding mode.

Right move?

For many fans, the brain says yes. The heart undoubtedly says no.