Riddle me this… You have a 37 year old pitcher, a knuckleballer, in the midst of the greatest season of his career who has become a fan favorite and is well on his way to earning a second contract extension since joining the team in 2010. How on earth do you approach that contract negotiation? This my friends is why Sandy Alderson gets paid the big bucks, because there is no handbook for this one and there are a TON of variables that are going to come into play.
First and foremost, conventional wisdom would say you’d be nuts to offer a multi-year deal to a 37 year old starting pitcher. Doing a bit of research, it appears there are only nine pitchers, Dickey’s age or older, in all of major league baseball who’ve even made a start this season. Of those, there is only one other hurler who is on a multi-year deal other than Dickey and that is Cleveland’s Derek Lowe, who signed a 4yr/$60M deal at age 35. The thing about Lowe, if we even want to call him the exception to the rule, is that he had a history of success. Nine consecutive seasons (2002 – 2010) of a dozen wins or more will earn you that lucrative late career contract.
A look back in recent history finds Tim Wakefield as the last successful knuckleballer of note. As such, he may provide a better measuring stick to judge Dickey’s financial value due to the expectation that knuckleballers can pitch well into their forties. At age 36, albeit a year younger than Dickey at the time, he signed a 3yr/$13M deal. The issue remains that just like Lowe, he too had a history of success. In 2003 when he signed that deal, Wakefield had already posted five seasons of ten wins or more. RA Dickey has no such legacy. In fact, Dickey’s 52 career wins include only two season which he’s posted double digit victories. However, Wakefield would go on to post six additional seasons of ten wins or more, which should be an interesting tidbit in Dickey’s favor.
The reality of the situation is that there has never been this type of circumstance. While I don’t think that it is, its impossible to determine if Dickey’s masterful year to date is anything more than a fluke. Has he perfected the knuckleball? His BB rate and WHIP since joining the Mets certainly blow away the career numbers of Wakefield, but is that enough to convince the front office that Dickey can continue his torrid pace for years to come?
We do know several things for certain… Dickey has struck a chord with the team’s fan base that is certainly good for business. He is as approachable as he is intelligent, both factors that should prove invaluable towards the twilight of his seemingly delayed major league career. The current circumstances should also drive the Mets to the negotiating table sooner than later. Should Dickey ride this current wave to a twenty win season and the Cy Young award, the negotiations would get increasingly more complicated. As I mentioned above, the variables are endless.
Plain and simple, Dickey has earned his next extension and appears to be a major piece of the franchise for several years to come. The question remains at what price. If I were Sandy Alderson, using Tim Wakefield’s career as the baseline for knuckleballers and taking inflation into account, I would offer an extension that wipes out the option year of Dickey’s current contract in exchange for an extension in the 3yr/$20M realm with a team option for a fourth year, should he remain effective. Such a deal would bring Dickey to the ripe old age of 42, at which point one year deal’s would be in the cards from that point forward.
That’s the way I look at it when trying to take everything, except emotion, into account. What do you think? Is Dickey worth that and then some or would you prefer the Mets didn’t take the risk on an older player who has no history of greatness? Or maybe I’m spot on? Sound off below…
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