Trading Initials and the Curse of 1973

Author’s Disclaimer: Perhaps by the time you are reading this, the Met player in question has already signed a new contract. If so, skip the first eight paragraphs

During the winter meetings after the 1983 season, the Mets where attempting to wrap up a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers for utility infielder extraordinaire Bob Bailor. Coming off their seventh-straight losing season, Bailor was an unnecessary luxury for the Mets. But the deal was stalled on the compensation. Finally, Tommy Lasorda broke the deadlock by suggesting, “Let’s trade our pineapple for your pineapple.”

Lasorda was referring to Carlos Diaz, a Met farmhand who hailed from Hawaii. Lasorda wanted him included in the deal. In return, the Mets received left handed pitcher Sid Fernandez, another Aloha State native. That deal worked out very well for the Mets. Sid won 90 games for them between 1984 and 1993 and his relief appearance in Game 7 of the 1986 World Series is hands down, the greatest clutch pitching performance in team history. (You can look it up). Both Diaz and Bailor had already played their last game in the majors by that night.

Perhaps Sandy Alderson will sidle up alongside Alex Anthopoulos during the winter meetings and offer to trade his initials for Toronto’s initials. In other words, he’s talking about trading them R.A. Dickey for J.P. Arencibia.

Now, before you gnash your teeth (or hit the back button) hear me out: Yes, R.A. Dickey is the reigning NL Cy Young award winner and best thing to happen to the Mets in years. Don’t tell any potential trade partners this, but he is also 38 years old. He is coming off a series of small injuries, including plantar fasciitis and a torn abdominal muscle, both injuries kinda synonymous with aging athletes. Do keep touting him as the next Phil Niekro. When doing that, don’t let on that Niekro is a baseball anomaly. We don’t want any GM looking up stats showing the next most successful knuckler over the age of 38 was Tim Wakefield, who won three more games (72) than he lost between 2005 and 2011 (including a full season with the 2007 World Champion Red Sox). And hope to God that they don’t look at the stats for what Charlie Hough or Tom Candiotti, the other modern-day knucklers, did past their 38th birthdays.

Thanks to their fleecing of the Miami Marlins and the two-year deal they signed with Melky Cabrera, the Blue Jays are in win now mode. They might be willing to take even one year of Dickey (who makes their rotation fierce) for the opportunity to grab a world title.

By making this deal, the Mets get Arencibia, who fills a few holes for them. For openers, he is a better catcher than anyone the Mets have right now. Yeah he lead the majors in passed balls in 2011, but his career caught stealing and fielding percentages are both above the American League average. He is also a lot cheaper and will be that way for much longer than anyone they can get on the free agent market. He is due $490 K in 2013, meaning the Mets will save about nearly $4.5M on this deal. Unlike Hank Conger who I theorized about trading for for here, Arencibia has an extended big league track record: he has played parts of three seasons, over which he has slugged 43 homers. His batting average has climbed steadily: he hit .143 his rookie season, .219 the next and .233 last season. The savings on the Dickey contract and from the Jason Bay rework should give the Mets enough money to resign Scott Hairston or a similar righty bat. Together, Arencibia and Hairston form a decent righty power combo in the lower half of the Mets batting order. Inserting those two in the lineup creates a nice 4-4 lefty/righty split in the batting order.

Don’t discount the J.P. Ricciardi factor. (Lots of initials on this post, no?) Arencibia was a first round draft pick by Ricciardi back when he was the Jays GM. In case you’ve forgotten, Ricciardi is now part of the three-headed troika of geniuses currently steering the Mets front office. Probably not coincidentally, there has been a parade of ex-Blue Jays through the Met roster since 2010. Arencibia is also highly available—the Jays have three other catchers, including the highly touted Travis D’Araund, whom they got from the Phillies in the Roy Halladay trade.

Because Toronto isn’t taking on an onerous contract, Alderson should be able to pry someone else like speedy centerfielder Anthony Gose and at least one of Toronto’s pitching prospects like Noah Snydergard or Aaron Sanchez in the deal as well.

My guess is that instead of trading him, the Mets will extend Dickey. He certainly is “Box Office,” as most of his home starts in 2012 will attest. Winning the Cy Young only increases his profile. In many ways, I can understand the desire to keep him, not the least being the class act that he is, both on and off the field. And who knows, maybe he is the next Phil Niekro.

Otherwise, it is 1973 all over again. The Mets won 82 games that season, which somehow was actually enough to win the division. Furthering the illusion, they were on the right side of a lightening strike in the NLCS against the Big Red Machine and then just missed beating the mighty Oakland A’s in the World Series due mainly to a Yogi Berra screw-up with the rotation. (It’s been 40 years, maybe I should get over that). Instead of looking at their regular season record, the near absolute lack of power, a total lack of speed and a barren farm system, upper management clung to the notion that this group of players had yet another run in them. The team essentially treaded water for the next few years until everything fell apart in 1977. You know the rest, they languished in or near last place for the next seven years. If the Mets do sign Dickey to an extension and he is unable to replicate his 2012 success and/or the nagging injuries and his age catch up with him fast, the Mets will have misread the situation and let sentiment and the hope (need?) for a box office payoff trump good baseball sense.

So what do you think? Do you like or hate the Toronto deal? Have a better one? Think the Mets should keep Dickey? Have a favorite 1973 memory (calling Dave Schneck)?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

12-13 Offseason

About the Author

A Mets fan since 1971, Dan spent many summer nights of his childhood watching the Mets on WOR Channel Nine, which his Allentown, PA cable company carried. Dan was present at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series and the Todd Pratt Walkoff Game in 1999. He is also the proud owner of two Shea Stadium seats. Professionally, Dan is a Marketing Communications Coordinator. He is married, lives in Bethlehem PA and has a 10-year-old son who unfortunately roots for the Phillies.

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