Should M’s Make a Play for R.A. Dickey?

Dave · December 11, 2012 at 9:14 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Tonight, the Reds, Indians, and Diamondbacks completed a three-way trade that may very well have some real implications for the Mariners. The Reds sent shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius to Arizona, the D’Backs shipped Trevor Bauer to Cleveland, and the Indians sent Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati. There was some other stuff involved too, but for the Mariners purposes, those are the names that matter. And they mostly matter because Arizona finally landed the young shortstop they’ve been trying to acquire all winter.

Which means that they’re probably going to stop trying to trade Justin Upton, who was a primary target of the Texas Rangers. And that means that the Rangers are now more likely to re-sign Josh Hamilton, who is apparently a target of the Mariners. Welcome to Six Degrees of Shin-Soo Choo.

I know some people got fired up by the idea of the Mariners signing Josh Hamilton. And, who knows, they still might. But if Hamilton does decide to go back to Texas, and Arizona does decide to keep Upton, and just for the sake of argument, let’s say Nick Swisher doesn’t want to come to Seattle… what then? Besides the media freakout from people who don’t understand that a team can win without a 35 home run guy in right field, I mean? That would happen, but what else could the team do to improve if Hamilton, Swisher, and Upton were off the board?

How about go the other way entirely and acquire the one impact guy who we know for a fact is definitively available in trade? R.A. Dickey.

If you haven’t been following along, the reigning NL Cy Young winner has one year left on his contract, and he has been negotiating with the Mets on a new deal for a few months now. Most reports suggest that he’s asking for a two year extension at $13 million per year, which would begin in 2014, making the total commitment from the Mets $31 million over three years. The Mets apparently countered with a 2/16 extension, which would have paid him $21 million over those same three years, or about the same amount that Marco Scutaro just signed for. You can see why he hasn’t re-signed yet.

Apparently, the Mets recently increased their offer to 2/20, which equals out to 3/25 overall — Jeremy Guthrie money, so, yeah, still a steal for the Mets — and now they’re only $6 million apart, so it seems like something should get done. But, at the same time, the Mets have actively shopped Dickey around the league, and as Jon Heyman wrote today, they continue to make him available for the right offer even as they draw closer to a middle ground on an extension.

In fact, in that piece, Heyman notes that “at least a couple teams have offered one elite prospect for Dickey, but the Mets are looking for multiple players back in a package.”

The Mets want multiple young players in exchange for Dickey. Dickey is willing to sign a more-than-reasonable contract extension with the Mets, and you can probably infer that he’d be willing to sign a reasonable extension with a team that trades for him as well, especially if he had some comfort level with the organization and the area. You can probably see where I’m going with this.

All winter long, people have been trying to figure out what they can get for some kind of package involving Nick Franklin and James Paxton. First it was Justin Upton, then Alex Gordon, then Wil Myers… pretty much every interesting young outfielder in Major League Baseball has been traded for Nick Franklin and James Paxton on some Mariner blog at some point this off-season. Obviously, the Mariners couldn’t make any of those moves in real life, so Paxton and Franklin remain, even though they are somewhat superfluous to the organization given the other assets already in place here. It doesn’t mean the Mariners have to trade them, but you can bet that they probably would if given the chance to acquire an impact player.

And, while he’s not a power hitting right fielder, Dickey qualifies as an impact player. Over the last three years, Dickey has allowed 3.28 runs per nine innings. For comparison, Felix has allowed 3.31 runs per nine innings over the same time period. You have to account for the different leagues, different parks, and different number of innings, of course, but even after you do all that, Dickey still grades out as a top notch starting pitcher. By a runs allowed based WAR — knuckleballers are an exception to FIP, so you should use RA9-wins for Dickey instead of FIP-wins — Dickey has been worth +15 WAR over the last three years; Felix is at +18, or about one additional win per year.

Other guys around +15 RA9-wins from 2010-2012: Matt Cain, Johnny Cueto, Gio Gonzalez, Tim Hudson, and Ian Kennedy. CC Sabathia is at +17. Cole Hamels and David Price join Felix in the +18 crowd. Put simply, Dickey has been similarly valuable to the best pitchers in baseball over the last three years. He simply was not a one year wonder. He’s been excellent for the past 600 innings, and is probably the best player on the market right now, even including Hamilton.

As we’ve noted many times before, the Mariners could use another starting pitcher. Blake Beavan is basically a replacement level scrub, and none of the team’s pitching prospects look like they’re ready to contribute in the big leagues. Replacing Beavan with R.A. Dickey would likely constitute a larger upgrade than bringing in any right fielder, even Hamilton, Swisher, or Upton.

And, if Dickey is willing to sign an extension for something along the lines of what he’s asking for the Mets, then he’s not really a Cliff Lee style one year rental. Instead, Dickey should be viewed as a guy under team control for the next three years at something in the $30 to $35 million range.

Yes, Dickey’s a 38-year-old, but he’s also a knuckleballer, and knucklers just don’t age like normal pitchers. They’re often just as effective in their late 30s and early 40s as they were earlier in their careers, and it’s not uncommon for a knuckleballer’s best years to come after traditional pitchers have long since retired. If we grade Dickey out as a +15 win pitcher over the last three years, then I’d expect he’ll be a +10 to +12 win pitcher over the next three years. You have to adjust the number of innings downwards, but it’s unlikely that Dickey’s knuckler is just going to stop getting big league hitters out any time soon.

So, if we see Dickey as a +4 win player in 2013, and then maybe a +3ish win pitcher in the following two seasons, he’d be a pretty huge steal at $30 to $35 million over those three years. And all of the sudden, giving up Paxton and Franklin for a 38-year-old pitcher doesn’t look so crazy.

In fact, because of his $5 million salary in 2013, the choice isn’t really between Dickey or a right fielder. The Mariners could easily afford to have both. Even if they sign Hamilton or Swisher, they’re likely to have enough payroll space left to squeeze Dickey into the budget if they so desired, and the combination of both Dickey and an impact right fielder could add something in the range of +7 to +10 WAR to the Mariners roster next year. If you’re super bullish on Dickey repeating his 2012 season, maybe even +12.

It would be a go-for-it kind of move, and probably wouldn’t go over all that well in Seattle, especially if it wasn’t paired with the signing of a “big bat”. But, Dickey would represent a pretty monstrous upgrade for the Mariners, and he is available, potentially at a price in talent that the team can afford. If the pieces the Mariners have to trade won’t land them a big offensive upgrade, perhaps those pieces can land them a big pitching upgrade. It’s at least worth kicking the tires on. And if the Mets told Jack tomorrow that they’d ship Dickey to Seattle for Paxton and Franklin, and that Dickey would sign the same extension with the Mariners that he wants from the Mets, I’d suggest pulling the trigger.

Wins are wins, no matter what form they come in. R.A. Dickey would make the Mariners a lot better in a hurry. If he can be had for something like Paxton and Franklin, then I hope Jack is at least exploring the option.


68 Responses to “Should M’s Make a Play for R.A. Dickey?”

  1. Slats on December 12th, 2012 2:33 pm

    FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi reports that the Mariners have engaged in “preliminary discussions” with the Tigers about a trade for outfielder Brennan Boesch.

  2. charliebrown on December 12th, 2012 2:47 pm

    FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi reports that the Mariners have engaged in “preliminary discussions” with the Tigers about a trade for outfielder Brennan Boesch.

    Gag. Sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

  3. Badbadger on December 12th, 2012 2:51 pm

    “Are you kidding? The guy is only 23 and already has pitched two years in the major leagues, with a 4.37 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP! He’s a former #1 draft pick who has hit 96-97 MPH earlier in his career, he’s 6’7? and 240.”

    Plenty of #1 draft picks suck, and he no longer throws that hard. His size doesn’t really mean anything. Era and WHIP aren’t very good measures of skill.

    Beavan’s career xFIP is 4.79. More importantly, he really really can’t strike anyone out; career k/9 of 3.93. All his pitches are hitable, and he doesn’t get ground balls. He’s been made to look better than he is by pitching at Safeco in front of the M’s defense, but it’s hard to see where any improvement might come from. It’s not like he’s got deadly stuff he needs to learn to command, he’s got plus command and mediocre stuff.

  4. globalalpha on December 12th, 2012 2:59 pm

    On Hafner — doesn’t brining in Jason Bay make the acquisition of a DH-only type unlikely? I have a hard time seeing them both make the 25 man roster. Or if so does that mean we’d have to see Bay manning LF? Yikes.

  5. Mariners35 on December 12th, 2012 3:13 pm

    So, you don’t think Jaso should play everyday, and don’t think Montero is a catcher, and know that Zunino is a half season or more away… yet you want to bring in a knuckleballer as the significant offseason upgrade and instant #2 pitcher.


  6. JasonJ on December 12th, 2012 3:22 pm

    “FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi reports that the Mariners have engaged in “preliminary discussions” with the Tigers about a trade for outfielder Brennan Boesch.”

    Haha. Our FO really does not like Casper Wells. Let’s just trade him for some bobblehead parts and get it over with.

  7. stevemotivateir on December 12th, 2012 3:57 pm


    A case was already made for Jaso to be the starting catcher. Guess you missed it.

    Moving on, you really think anyone here is less serious about landing Swisher or Hamilton, or that Dickey would be a priority over either of them? This post was simply an idea for an alternative way to improve, in case none of the desirable bats were obtainable.

    By the way, Dickey would be the instant number two pitcher. He didn’t win the Cy Young for sucking.

  8. charliebrown on December 12th, 2012 5:31 pm

    A case was already made for Jaso to be the starting catcher. Guess you missed it

    Yes, but catching a knuckleball was not part of that analysis.

    Guess you missed it too.

  9. msfanmike on December 12th, 2012 9:55 pm

    I hope the Brennan Boesch rumor is simply a bluff to any prospective FA that there could be one less available team with money to spend interested in them. Then again, with that quality of bluff, someone will most certainly “call” it.

    Brennan Boesch … does this team really need another 5th outfielder candidate?

  10. stevemotivateir on December 13th, 2012 6:11 am

    “Yes, but catching a knuckleball was not part of that analysis.

    Guess you missed it too.”

    Oh, my bad. I didn’t realize that there was a special kind of catcher just for knuckleball pitchers, or that the other four starters, and twelve men in the pen, will all be knuckleballers as well next season.

    Yes, that changes everything. Thanks for pointing that out. Jaso clearly can’t be the starter now.

  11. Westside guy on December 13th, 2012 7:37 am

    On the Hot Stove League show a couple days ago, Wedge says he sees Montero (!) as his main catcher. He also said he’d like the Mariners to add another catcher because of… if I understood his point correctly… “not wanting to have both Jaso and Montero unavailable for late game situations” or somesuch.

    It sounded suspiciously like he wanted to keep at least one of his best bats on the bench most games, in case he needed a pinch hitter. I really really really hope I misunderstood him, because I’d hope even a really old school guy would realize the relative values of a good hitter getting 4-5 trips to the plate every game versus saving him for one possible late game at-bat.

  12. TumwaterMike on December 13th, 2012 9:19 am

    FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi reports that the Mariners have engaged in “preliminary discussions” with the Tigers about a trade for outfielder Brennan Boesch.

    I think Jack’s just kicking tires wherever he can to see what pops up.

  13. kinickers77 on December 13th, 2012 11:06 am

    What the heck??? Angels close to deal with Hamilton????

  14. ThanatosK on December 13th, 2012 11:35 am

    Ha ha, being reported as signed now. 5 year deal with some talk of using Peter Bourjos or Trumbo in a trade to get RA Dickey too. Curse those damn Angels.

  15. deadball on December 13th, 2012 1:59 pm

    A comment on the catching issue from The Wall Street Journal, regarding La Russa’s decision to start Cain instead of Dickey with Posey catching:

    “Because the knuckleball is prone to sudden, erratic changes in trajectory, it often eludes the gloves of catchers who aren’t experienced with it, sending them scurrying after the ball. And because Dickey is the only knuckleballer in the majors, most catchers have never caught it.

    Former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who struggled with Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball, once likened the experience to “trying to catch a fly with a chopstick.” Even Doug Mirabelli, who became Wakefield’s personal catcher in Boston, would lose sleep fretting over the pitch.

    “It could be potentially embarrassing for the catcher if he’s never done it before,” Mirabelli said. “He might be able to pick it up pretty fast, but it took me a while, and it took quite a few guys a while.”

    Dickey said the catching situation has been “overthought,” and pointed to his exceptional command of the knuckleball this season. He has thrown 70% of his pitches for strikes, the highest rate among N.L. starting pitchers, and has thrown only one wild pitch.”

  16. brjohnso on December 13th, 2012 3:10 pm

    Ummm… not to burst anyone’s ballon here, but do the M’s have anyone that can catch a knuckleball?

  17. stevemotivateir on December 13th, 2012 5:39 pm

    ^ Yeah, anyone behind the plate with a glove. Seriously, that’s the last thing anyone should worry about.

  18. dantheman on December 13th, 2012 7:17 pm

    “and Arizona does decide to keep Upton, and just for the sake of argument, let’s say Nick Swisher doesn’t want to come to Seattle… what then? Besides the media freakout from people who don’t understand that a team can win without a 35 home run guy in right field”

    Speaking of facts, Upton has never hit 35 home runs in a season (he’s actually hit less than 20 in 2 out of the last 3 seasons) and Swisher has hit as many as 35 home runs exactly once – 6 years ago. He’s played the last 4 years in New York with over 600 PA each year and hasn’t hit 30. I think people in the “media” would probably look that up.

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