From Left Field: Only 3 Teams Have Traded A Reigning Cy Young Winner
Now that it’s official that R.A. Dickey has won the NL Cy Young, hopefully the trade talks surrounding him begin to subside.
It’s sad that the Mets are in such a financial bind that they can’t find the money to lock up a Cy Young award winner to a contract extension.
Sure, the arguments for trading him make sense. His value is at an all time high, and the Mets could maybe get back a few Major League ready prospects in return.
But here’s a guy who (surprisingly) actually wants to stay with the Mets because this is where he got his shot to succeed.
Dickey was 20-6 in 2012 with a 2.73 ERA and led the league in strikeouts (230), complete games (five) and innings (233.2). In those innings, he only walked 54 batters, which is extremely rare for a knuckleballer.
Let’s take a look back at baseball history to see how many Cy Young award winners started their next season for a different team the year after winning the award.
Reliever Mark Davis won the 1989 NL Cy Young for the San Diego Padres after posting a 1.85 ERA and 44 saves. However, he signed with the Kansas City Royals for three years and $10 million prior to the 1990 season.
In 1992, Chicago Cubs hurler Greg Maddux won the NL Cy Young with a 20-11 record and 2.18 ERA. He had played seven seasons in Chicago, but contract negotiations stalled, leading Maddux to sign a five-year, $28 million deal with the Atlanta Braves. How did that one work out for the Cubs? Well, Maddux wound up winning the next three Cy Youngs pitching for the Braves.
In the strike-shortened 1994 season, former Met David Cone won the AL Cy Young with the Royals after finishing 16-5 with a 2.94 ERA. But right after the strike ended, he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for Chris Stynes, David Sinnes and Tony Medrano.
The 1997 season saw Pedro Martinez of the Montreal Expos win the NL Cy Young after going 17-8 with a 1.90 ERA and 305 strikeouts in 241.1 innings. He also threw 13 complete games that year. However, the Expos knew they wouldn’t be able to sign him long-term, so the team traded him that winter to the Boston Red Sox for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. Martinez signed a six-year, $75 million contract in Boston, which was the largest ever awarded to a pitcher at that time.
Roger Clemens won the 1998 AL Cy Young with the Blue Jays, finishing the year 20-6 with a 2.65 ERA. Even with two years left on his contract, Clemens was traded to the Yankees for David Wells, Homer Bush and Graeme Lloyd.
Three Cy Young Award winners – Frank Viola (1988, Twins), C.C. Sabathia (2007, Indians) and Cliff Lee (2008, Indians) – started the following year with the same team but were traded near the July trade deadline.
So excluding those last three, that’s five pitchers in the 56-year history of the award that pitched for a different team immediately after winning a Cy Young. Further exclude Maddux and Davis since they signed free agent contracts, so just three pitchers – Cone, Martinez and Clemens – were traded after winning the award.
Dickey would fall into that category if the Mets traded him, since he was put under contract for the 2013 season once the Mets exercised his option. He would join impressive company if traded, but hopefully this award and his desire to return convinces ownership to get a deal done.
His age and pitching style are certainly risk factors, but now that he’s finally shown consistency over the past three years, it would be a worthy investment.
Maybe a two- or three-year extension with a higher base salary could get the job done. But seeing Dickey become just the fourth reigning Cy Young winner to get traded would be tough to swallow.
About the Author: Jim Mancari
Jim Mancari hails from Massapequa, N.Y. He recently earned a Master's degree in Journalism at Hofstra University. He is a devout Mets fan and takes pride in his team, despite their lack of success over the last few years. Like all Mets fans, Jim has plenty of hope. He also writes as the sports reporter for the Brooklyn Tablet newspaper and the senior editor of metroBASEBALL Magazine. Click my name to view my personal website.
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