|The Blue Jays’ active offseason has culminated in a trade for R.A. Dickey, the National League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner. The price paid was prospects, just as it had been in the mega-trade that brought Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes from Miami to Toronto. To acquire Dickey plus catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas from New York, the Blue Jays parted with Triple-A catcher Travis d’Arnaud (the system’s top prospect), low Class A righthander Noah Syndergaard (the system’s top pitching prospect), big league catcher John Buck and 18-year-old Venezuelan outfielder Wuilmer Becerra.
The Blue Jays signed Dickey to a two-year, $25 million extension for 2014-15 before finalizing the trade.
The last two Cy Young winners to be traded in the offseason after winning the award both went in the opposite direction, exiting Canada instead of entering the country. The Blue Jays traded Roger Clemens (for a package headlined by David Wells) in March 1999, while the Expos dealt Pedro Martinez (for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr.) in November 1997.
The Blue Jays’ winter wheeling-and-dealing has imported six veterans who in 2012 combined for roughly 16 wins above replacement (WAR), according to Baseball-Reference.com. That tally does not even count the contributions of Melky Cabrera or Maicer Izturis—both signed as free agents—or reliever Esmil Rogers, who was acquired in a minor trade with the Indians.
If Buehrle, Dickey and Johnson combine to make 90 starts in 2013, then Toronto stands to improve on its 4.82 starter ERA by a substantial margin. Reyes, Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio (acquired in Marlins mega-trade) will give the Jays a new-look middle infield, while Cabrera takes over in left field, offering a large upgrade over Rajai Davis, even if Cabrera regresses to pre-2012 levels.
Of course, to make those improvements to the big league club, Toronto sacrificed five of its top eight prospects: d’Arnaud (No. 1), center fielder Jake Marisnick (No. 2), Syndergaard (No. 3), lefty Justin Nicolino (No. 5) and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (No. 8). The Blue Jays sense that now may be the time to strike in the American League East, given the uncertainty surrounding the state of the Red Sox and Yankees.
|Travis d’Arnaud, c
Age: 23. Born: Feb. 10, 1989 in Long Beach.
Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195.
Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Lakewood (Calif.) HS.
Career Transactions: Selected by Phillies in supplemental first round (37th overall) of 2007 draft; signed June 16, 2007 … Traded by Phillies with RHP Kyle Drabek and OF Michael Taylor to Blue Jays for RHP Roy Halladay and cash, Dec. 16, 2009.
D’Arnaud immediately becomes the Mets’ backstop of the future and shouldn’t need much more seasoning at Triple-A to push John Buck aside. He was hitting .333/.380/.595 for Triple-A Las Vegas when he injured his left knee trying to break up a double play, which caused him to miss the rest of the season. The Mets will likely want to see how he’s rebounded from the injury before calling him up, but d’Arnaud should be ready by the all-star break. He’s a rare catching prospect that projects to hit in the middle of a lineup. He is an above-average hitter who should hit for at least average power. He doesn’t walk much but makes consistent hard contact, getting hits even when his timing is off or he gets off balance. He has the bat speed and strength to hit plenty of homers and lets his power come naturally, employing a short stroke and all-fields approach. Though he has played in extremely hitter-friendly home ballparks the last two years, his pop is legitimate, as 18 of his 37 homers have come on the road. D’Arnaud made good strides with his defense in 2011 by working with then-New Hampshire manager Sal Fasano, who caught in the majors for nine seasons. Those improvements carried over to 2012, when d’Arnaud threw out a career-high 30 percent of basestealers. He has average to plus arm strength and has refined his footwork and throwing accuracy. He’s a solid receiver who moves well behind the plate, and he’s a good leader who works well with his pitching staffs. —Nathan Rode
|Noah Syndergaard, rhp
Age: 19. Born: Aug. 29, 1992 in Mansfield, Texas.
Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 200.
Bats: L. Throws: R.
School: Legacy HS, Mansfield, Texas.
Career Transactions: Selected by Blue Jays in supplemental first round (38th overall) of 2010 draft; signed June 15, 2010.
Syndergaard’s big frame gives him an imposing presence on the mound, and his fastball only adds to it. His heater ranges from 92-98 mph with excellent downward angle and armside run. His curveball has gained velocity since he signed and now sits in the mid-70s with downward action. It’s inconsistent and eventually may develop into a slider, but it gets outs and features good spin. He maintains his arm speed well on his mid-80s changeup. He has very good body control for his size, which leads to quality command and control. He has a ceiling of frontline starter, with remarkable polish for a teen power pitcher. Mets fans can dream of a future rotation with three bonafide frontline starters in righthanders Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Syndergaard. —Nathan Rode
|Wuilmer Becerra, rf/lf
Age: 17. Born: Oct 1, 1994 in Caracas, Venezuela.
Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 190.
Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as international free agent by Blue Jays, July 3, 2011.
A big signing from the 2011 international class, Becerra brought home $1.3 million that July. He took 32 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League before taking a pitch off the face and breaking his jaw on July 3. He has strength and above-average raw power, but his bat draws mixed reviews. His swing can get long and has an uppercut, which may detract from his ability to hit for average. Becerra is a plus runner who fits best in the outfield despite playing shortstop as an amateur. He fits in center field now and may have to shift to left if he loses speed when he fills out. —Nathan Rode
|John Buck, c
Age: 31. Bats: R. Remaining Commitment: 1 year, $6 million.
All contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
Buck has been involved in both Blue Jays’ blockbuster trades this offseason, going from Miami to Toronto in November, and now to New York in December. He’s on the last year of a three-year contract, and he has good power for a catcher and a good arm.
|Blue Jays Acquire|
|R.A. Dickey, rhp
Age: 37. Remaining Commitment: 1 year, $5 million.
Dickey, who signed with the Mets as a minor league free agent in 2009, tossed back-to-back one-hitters in June, led the NL in strikeouts (230) and innings (234), and became the first knuckleballer to win a Cy Young Award. He’s a pioneer of sorts for throwing a knuckleball that ranges from 67-83 mph, doing so while missing bats and exercising supreme control. He struck out 8.9 and he walked 2.1 batters per nine innings in 2012.
|Josh Thole, c
Age: 25. Bats: L. Remaining Commitment: Under club control for 2013-16 seasons ($498,920 salary in 2012).
Thole didn’t come to the big leagues with any particular skill at catching the knuckleball, but he proved to be a quick study and evolved, more or less, into Dickey’s personal catcher. Thole caught 66 of Dickey’s 95 starts with the Mets, 17 of those when he was a rookie backstop in 2010. He got off to a solid start in 2012, batting .284/.356/.370 through May 7 (92 PAs), at which point he suffered a concussion in a home-plate collision and could not shake the cobwebs for the rest of the season, putting up a .536 OPS.
|Mike Nickeas, c
Age: 29. Bats: R. Remaining Commitment: Under club control for five seasons, 2013-17.