Although Lee Mazzilli was never the impact player that R.A. Dickey was, he was certainly as popular and played on Mets teams far worse than the current ones of recent years. I mention both players in the same sentence because both shared a similar fate. They were both popular and were traded for highly touted prospects.
In 1982, Mets general manager Frank Cashen sent Mazzilli to the Texas Rangers for young pitching prospects Ron Darling and Walt Terrell. Mazzilli would continue a mediocre career with Texas, the Yankees, the Pirates, and eventually back to the Mets just in time to enjoy a world championship celebration. At the time the move was not popular however those who followed the game closely knew the Mets had made the right move.
Sure enough Darling would eventually blossom as a fine starting pitcher for the Mets. Terrell had a nice season in 1984 but was moved the following winter to bring in Howard Johnson from Detroit. Johnson went on to have many very good offensive years for the Mets and was the on deck batter the night Mookie’s grounder went through the legs of Bill Buckner.
Perhaps the trade of R. A. Dickey will become somewhat similar. Sandy Alderson, like Cashen before him, has brought in a couple of very talented young players who could be contributing on the major league level for years to come. Time will tell but certainly it was the right decision regardless of how popular Dickey had become.
There is always risk in any trade or free agent signing. Criticism of the trade is that the young catcher Travis d’Arnaud is prone to injury. Although a potential hitting threat and perhaps the best catching prospect in baseball, there is no guarantee the young player will live up to his potential. That’s true of any prospect.
The same could be said for Dickey. What assurance do we have that he will continue to be the pitcher he was last season when he won the Cy Young award. Certainly he should be good and will help Toronto who have reinvented themselves for the 2013 season. But d’Arnaud should be good too. He’s already a better alternative to Josh Thole who is average at best behind the plate and unlike d’Arnaud was not a catcher to begin with.
The Mets also picked up Toronto’s top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard who now ranks third in the list of Mets prospects behind d’Arnaud and Zach Wheeler. You can see a parallel to the 1980s when you look at the Mets pitching talent on the horizon. Where the 80’s Mets had Dwight Gooden, Darling, and Sid Fernandez (also acquired in a trade), the 10’s Mets have Matt Harvey, Wheeler and perhaps Syndergaard moving forward. It might be interesting if the Mets were to pick up Johan Santana’s option for 2014. Santana could conceivably be the fifth starter.
At the end of last summer, Sandy Alderson told Mike Francesa on WFAN that the team would be different next season. Slowly but surely things are changing. Gone is Jason Bay, Josh Thole, Mike Nickeas, Andres Torres, and R. A. Dickey. John Buck (c) is in, also from the Toronto deal with d’Arnaud a better than even shot at starting. In a small deal today, Alderson picked up outfielder Collin Cowgill from Oakland for infielder Jefry Marte. Cowgill is a spot starter and late inning replacement at best so Sandy still has his work cut out for himself. The Mets need a center fielder and will either trade younger pitching prospects or delve into the free agent market to get one.
Things are getting interesting in Flushing but there is still much work to be done.
Here’s an interesting thought. The Blue Jays and Mets have basically swapped their triple A locations. Last season the Las Vegas 51s were the AAA Pacific Coast League entrants for the Jays while the Buffalo Bisons were the Mets AAA affiliate in the International League. After the 2012 season, Buffalo inked a deal with Toronto leaving the Mets the odd man out in the AAA game of musical chairs. The only available triple A club the Mets could get a deal with was the Las Vegas 51s.
Now that Mike Nickeas is on the Blue Jays, he will likely be going to AAA. For him that means back to Buffalo. And for d’Arnaud, he will head back to Las Vegas where he played last season before getting hurt.