Would the Blue Jays do the R.A. Dickey Deal Again?

Very rarely in life do you ever get a do-over; a chance to make a wrong a right.
A second opportunity to go back in time and change something.

Admittedly, playing revisionist is something that mostly only happens in the movies, but every so often it’s kind of fun to ponder “what if”. Like “what if the Blue Jays didn’t pull the trigger on certain trades”- would that have shifted the landscape of the entire franchise?

The Blue Jays have certainly had their fair share of regrettable trades over the years, the Mike Sirotka one probably being the worst. But the one that sticks out
in my mind most recently is the R.A. Dickey trade.


For some reason I’ve been wondering a lot lately … if given the chance and knowing what we know now, would the Blue Jays go back and make the same trade for R.A. Dickey?

In case you need a refresher, here’s a list of all the players exchanged below. It really was the anti-Anthopoulos trade, as the Blue Jays traded two of their top prospects for an established Major League pitcher.

To the Blue Jays  To the Mets
R.A. Dickey Travis d’Arnaud
Josh Thole Noah Syndergaard
Mike Nickeas John Buck
Wuilmer Becerra

This one was different from the blockbuster with the Miami Marlins because the Dickey deal was not deemed “necessary”. The Dickey deal was merely an accessory to the Marlins blockbuster; without the prior trade, the R.A. Dickey trade probably doesn’t even happen.

Before to the R.A. Dickey acquisition, the Blue Jays starting rotation already comprised of Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, J.A. Happ and Ricky Romero. Not exactly a starting rotation that strikes fear into the competition, but on paper it certainly seemed like a respectable starting five. At the very least, it was a welcome upgrade over what the Blue Jays already had.

The R.A. Dickey trade was a “win now” move designed to help push the Blue Jays over the top. In a perfect world it would have done just that, but the Blue Jays never even really came close enough to where one pitcher like Dickey would have made the difference.

It’s very difficult to judge a trade of this magnitude just one year in, but at this point I’d say the Mets got the better of the trade. Currently they own MLB’s 11th best prospect in the form of Noah Syndergaard, and Travis d’Arnaud isn’t very far behind at number 22.

I’ll admit, it kind of stings a little bit every time I read an article raving about Travis d’Arnaud’s pitch framing or Noah Syndergaard’s repertoire. Not surprisingly, d’Arnaud and Syndergaard rank one and two on the New York Mets top prospects list.

The latest praise came from Mets manager Terry Collins raving about Syndergaard’s 97 MPH fastball, describing it as a “hook from hell“. That’s a pretty high compliment for a towering young right-hander who’s currently ranked as the third best pitching prospect in all of baseball.

The New York Mets made a very wise decision to sell high on R.A. Dickey when they did. They cashed in at the perfect time, following Dickey’s Cy Young season in 2012.


The Mets certainly got a good haul in return, similar to what the Blue Jays netted from the Phillies in Roy Halladay back in 2009. Oddly enough, the Phillies trade is what netted Travis d’Arnaud in the first place.

R.A. Dickey was the centrepiece of that trade, but there was another huge ripple effect of the deal; it set forth a very unique and unfortunate set of circumstances when it came to the Blue Jays catchers.

Not only did the Blue Jays trade away Travis d’Arnaud, but they also flipped Yan
Gomes a month prior, essentially trading their number three and four catchers on the
depth chart.

That move would ultimately come back to
bite them following the non-tendering of J.P. Arencibia. To add insult to injury, Yan Gomes
emerged as one of the top defensive catchers in all of baseball in 2013,
and Travis d’Arnaud is currently poised to break camp as the Mets
starting catcher.

Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard are still just prospects at this point, but even in just 31 games down the stretch last season, Travis d’Arnaud was worth more wins over replacement (-0.1 WAR) than J.P. Arencibia was the entire season (-0.6 WAR).

Travis d’Arnaud’s injury history may come into play and Noah Syndergaard may very well never pitch above Triple A, but was three years of R.A. Dickey really worth it?


Sure, R.A. Dickey was a serviceable arm in the Blue Jays rotation last year. He did what they needed him to do, which was make 30-plus starts and log over 200 innings. But I’m still not convinced Dickey will ever recapture
that magic from his 2012 Cinderella season.

The Blue Jays either overvalued the X factor of Dickey’s knuckleball, or Alex Anthopoulos rode the high following the Marlins blockbuster trade and perhaps dove into the Dickey deal prematurely.

I think the biggest flaw in the entire deal was not overvaluing R.A. Dickey, but it was misjudging the importance of J.P. Arencibia. The organization’s unwavering loyalty to Arencibia allowed them to deem not only Travis d’Arnaud as tradeable, but also Yan Gomes.

Clearly, the Blue Jays were confident J.P. Arencibia was going to be their starting catcher for the foreseeable future, which made them feel comfortable enough to deal away their two best catching prospects.

Knowing what we know now, I don’t know if I’d still make that trade. The odd thing is it’s not really because R.A. Dickey didn’t perform to expectations last year; it’s because the trade put the Blue Jays in a precarious situation at the catcher’s position.

If the Blue Jays fail to make the playoffs in the next few years, most pundits will likely point to this deal as one that went sour for
Toronto. On the flip side, if the Blue Jays end their 20 year playoff
drought, all will be forgotten.

Image courtesy of AP/The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn

Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

One thought on “Would the Blue Jays do the R.A. Dickey Deal Again?

  • February 21, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Fair points – well done. 2 points I'd raise:
    – I'd also say Dickey pigeon-holed the Jays into using Blanco and Thole in 2013 to somehow make their catcher position even worse. The story continues in 2014 as the Jays struggle to determine their Dickey-catcher. Maybe it will work better in 2014 but maybe it doesn't 🙁

    – The Jays acquired the Cy Young winner. He wasn't going to come cheap. But until Synd & D'Arnaud provide value at the major league level, it is too early to tell. It may look promising for the Mets, but that's it at this time.

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