For the first time since Dwight Gooden in 1985, the New York Mets have a Cy Young winner. They just don't want to pay him.
The news that the Mets were offering R.A. Dickey a contract on par with that roped in by Jeremy Guthrie in Kansas City (three years, $25 million) seems to suggest that they're not terribly serious about keeping the wizened knuckleballer around. This despite the fact that there were some truly outrageous reports on their demands in a potential trade earlier in the season.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, need starting pitching and were interested enough to have the discussions which spawned the outrageous demands of Bogaerts and Bradley about a week ago. Hopefully it is clear by this point that nobody is interested in swinging that deal. Still, as the Mets and Dickey seem to get further apart rather than closer together, is it possible R.A. Dickey will not be starting the year in New York?
First off, the obvious: the New York Mets aren't terribly close to the playoffs. After going 74-88 last year, they'd need to improve dramatically to contend in a division with the stacked Nationals and impressive Braves. As such, their one year of R.A. Dickey is worth only what they can get for him on the trade market, or a compensation pick in next year's draft (if they're willing to double their offered salary to bring him back on a one-year deal, that is).
Unfortunately, based on those earlier demands and the general lack of news we've had on the subject, it seems like they are, for whatever reason, in no rush to trade him. That doesn't really make a ton of sense, though, when you consider that they're not likely to contend and not willing to make him a serious contract offer. Given Dickey's age, waiting until the trade deadline could risk any return, too. Taking all that into account, it would be surprising if we didn't see the Mets' offer to Dickey didn't rise dramatically, or (given their current financial situation) their asking price for him fall to reasonable levels.
Just how low is reasonable, though? Dickey is a rare specimen indeed: a 38-year-old ace fresh off a Cy Young season with a knuckleball and a one-year contract. This, frankly, is uncharted territory in the modern game. How much is Dickey worth in terms of dollars? Prospects? How many years until he declines dramatically?
Obviously the answer to the first question is more than $8 million a year. Obviously the answer to the second is less than Bradley and Bogaerts. Three years is about the only thing the Mets have said that makes sense, though Dickey himself is only asking 2/$26. You can't be expecting a guy like R.A. Dickey to be dragged around on one-year deals even at his age, but you don't sign guys through their 44-year-old season.
The market for Dickey is about to heat up. He's not made so much in his career that he's able to pass up what might be his only shot at a big deal unless the Mets are going to make him a serious offer, and at his age he might just be in a position where he has to force something to happen. He obviously doesn't have any no-trade protection, but the Mets have little reason not to deal him right now, and if they're not going to be reasonable about it he has a reason to force their hand. If in the end the price comes down to a place where it makes sense for the Red Sox, they probably couldn't do much better than to bring the knuckleball back to Fenway.