The R.A. Dickey-Blue Jays Era: As Erratic as the Knuckleball

He was the last man standing. He was the last prominent player from the whirlwind 2012 offseason which shifted the entire dynamic of the Toronto Blue Jays franchise. Now the chapter has officially closed on the R.A. Dickey-Blue Jays era.

I remember that press conference from January of 2013 like it was yesterday; R.A. Dickey officially arrived in Toronto and he was going to usher in a brand new era of baseball; one where the Blue Jays were poised to be a World Series contender.

The R.A. Dickey trade was the finishing touch on an extremely busy season for the 2012 Blue Jays. The Marlins blockbuster deal set everything in motion, but the Dickey deal was merely the icing on the cake. It was the move that was going to send the Blue Jays over the top.


At that point, the Blue Jays boasted a starting rotation which consisted of the newly-minted Cy Young Award-winner and ace of the Blue Jays: R.A. Dickey, a former ERA champion in Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow.

It’s crazy to think that was four years ago: 130 starts and 824.1 innings later, R.A. Dickey has moved onto a new club.

It was apparent long ago that the Blue Jays would be moving on from the knuckleballer as season’s end, but R.A. Dickey’s departure closes the book on a very interesting era in Toronto Blue Jays history.


2013-2014: The Sideways Years

Looking back, you can divide Dickey’s time with the Blue Jays into two distinct subsets: from 2013-2014, the Blue Jays were abysmal. Everything went wrong for the club, and R.A. Dickey was the poster boy for that.

Dickey received a lot of unwarranted criticism for the team’s overall struggles, but he was the captain of the ship that was supposed to “save the Blue Jays”.

It turns out that R.A. Dickey was the least of the Blue Jays concerns through 2013-2014. Dickey did exactly what he was brought in to do: chew up innings. Every year, he could be counted upon to make 30-plus starts and throw 200-plus innings.

By nature, R.A. Dickey’s time with the Blue Jays was as unpredictable as the knuckleball itself. At times, Dickey looked unhittable. But he often rode a razor’s edge and was always one pitch from letting a game get away from him.

However, over the course of the season, R.A. Dickey averaged out to be a fairly decent starting pitcher. Second half R.A. Dickey posted some pretty great numbers during his time as a Blue Jay.



The Dickey Deal

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

This is the one thing everybody is going to talk about when they look back on this trade; the Blue Jays shipped off Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud to get R.A. Dickey.

In retrospect, if the Blue Jays knew what Syndergaard would become down the road, they may not have been as inclined to do that deal. But to counter that, had it not been for R.A. Dickey, maybe the Blue Jays wouldn’t have made the playoffs the past two years.

Without those ever-important starts made by R.A. Dickey, who would’ve eaten up those innings; and would they have been the same quality which Dickey provided for the Blue Jays?

I can’t fault Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays for making the Dickey deal. The Blue Jays needed starting rotation help, Noah Syndergaard wasn’t going to help them in the immediate future, so the Jays packed some assets and brought in somebody who could help them in the immediate future: R.A. Dickey.

Considering his sparkling numbers during his unprecedented 2012 Cy Young season, there arguably wasn’t a better starting pitcher better on the market than R.A. Dickey.


Expectations were extremely high for R.A Dickey entering the 2013 season, and anything less than Cy Young-calibre results may have been viewed as a failure. Dickey was also transitioning from the NL East to the American League East, and was now pitching in a bevvy of hitter-friendly ballparks.


In Closing

Admittedly, watching an R.A. Dickey start in itself was an exercise. You never really knew what to expect from the knuckleballer every five days … which is why at times, he was a joy to watch. That unpredictability provided entertainment for the last four seasons.

It took me a while, but I’m finally at peace with the R.A. Dickey trade. I don’t look at Noah Syndergaard and wonder what could’ve been for the Blue Jays. There’s no resentment towards R.A. Dickey, nor should there be.

That deal for R.A. Dickey was quite symbolic for the Blue Jays; symbolic that they were big players in the American League.

It was also a huge shift in the transition of the franchise. The Blue Jays went from prospect-hoarding to prospect-clearing. No other transaction was more evident than that of the deal for R.A. Dickey.

For years, Blue Jays fans begged the front office to “do something”, and that’s exactly what they did during the 2012 offseason. All those moves may not have panned out, but the R.A. Dickey deal did what it was designed to do.

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 “The R.A. Dickey-Blue Jays Era: As Erratic as the Knuckleball

  • November 11, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    For d’Arnaud, OK… Syndergaard, brain cramp…

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