The Chance For Something Special

An article by posted on December 18, 2012

First, this has to be said. As a fan of the Mets, I want to thank R.A. Dickey for everything he has done and the example he set for any player facing adversity in the game today. I thank Omar Minaya for taking a chance on him, and thank Sandy Alderson for believing in him enough to give him 2 more guaranteed years with the Mets.

Dickey made watching Mets games fun when there seemed to be almost no good reason to enjoy them. That cannot be minimized or said enough.

He had an unforgettable 2012, and I hope to watch him pitch Game 1 of the World Series for Toronto.

Now, this deal proved a few things to me. The first, that we all need to have a little more patience during the off-season. Just 5 days ago, the view from the Mets fan window was foggy due to the huffing and puffing many were doing. The off-season was a complete failure and the Mets front office was being viewed by their lack of action as giving up on building this team.

They were called liars for claiming there would be some wholesale changes. They were called out for over valuing R.A. Dickey on the trade market.

The quote I saw and heard most used against the Mets by many was “There will be more substantial changes, than subtle changes.”

The second is, the Mets played the Dickey trade market perfectly. Once Greinke signed, the Mets were in business and it took 24 hours for this deal to be reported as almost done. They may have made a mistake when it came to valuing the market on relievers in 2011, but they nailed it with Dickey.

Teams were reporting back that asking for 2 top prospects was too much. The media and fans were attacking Alderson for being too greedy in his requests. And then what happened? He got two top prospects.

By now, you all know what the Mets did. R.A. Dickey, Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas have been traded to the Blue Jays for top C prospect Travis d’Arnaud, veteran C John Buck, Toronto’s top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard and 18-year-old OF Wuilmer Becerra.

Sure, people can try to downplay the rankings that have these two youngsters ranked high. The flip of that is if he traded Dickey for two players not on the list – the Mets would hear “they couldn’t even get top prospects?”

You will have fans tell you that the prospects the Mets got may not pan out. That’s true. It can always happen. All you can do is do what you think is best for the future of the ball club. I will say this though, I believe the odds that d’Arnaud and Syndergaard help the Mets for years to come are greater than the odds that Dickey can replicate his 2012 season.

Yes, Travis d’Arnaud suffered a freak knee injury that didn’t require surgery and had 2 bulging disks in his back in 2010. Yes, Syndergaard needs to hit AA next year before we get real excited about him. But the reward outweighs the risk.

The organizations that have had consistent success have been those who had a strong core battery in place. Look at the St. Louis Cardinals with Yadier Molina, the San Francisco Giants with Buster Posey, the Red Sox with Varitek, the Phillies with Ruiz, the Yankees with Posada or even the Braves with Javy Lopez for so many years.

If you take a look around the sport, it’s likely no coincidence that Buster Posey (2), Yadier Molina (2), Jorge Posada, Carlos Ruiz, and Jason Varitek have been behind the plate for the last 7 World Series championships. It’s also likely not a coincidence that those 5 catchers came up to the big leagues with the team they won their titles with.

A catcher to go along with Niese, Harvey, Wheeler, Syndergaard, Gee, and Familia is truly a value the Mets fan should embrace.

In two seasons, the Mets have dealt two pending free agents and gotten back 3 top prospects. There’s no doubt that Baseball America can be wrong, and has been wrong. But if you look further than Baseball America, you’ll also see rave reviews for d’Arnaud and Syndergaard. Despite the views of critics, the Mets do have a scouting department that does more than read published articles of Baseball America.

The core of this team being made up of Davis, Wright, Tejada, Niese, Harvey, Wheeler, Gee, Familia, Syndergaard, and d’Arnaud should be something to be excited about. This doesn’t even include the potential of players like Michael Fullmer, and Luis Mateo just to name a few. We’ve seen teams like Baltimore and Oakland just recently, do more with less talent that I just listed above.

As soon as Opening Day 2014, we could see Niese-Harvey-Wheeler-Familia-Gee as the starting rotation with d’Arnaud behind the plate. That thought alone will get me through 2013.

The last few years were ugly, and it seemed like there was no direction just a bunch of GM speak. Now we know, the plan was to capitalize on the value of aging players to bring in talented young players who are almost ready to contribute to the big league club. I cannot find anything wrong with that plan.

A trade like this can always backfire. A prospect is no guarantee. But to look at that as a reason to not make the deal in the position the Mets were in is foolish. Sure I’ll miss Dickey. Sure, I worry that maybe d’Arnaud’s freak knee injury could hinder his progression. But you know what? I miss winning more, and not just “hey we have a chance for 1 year.” It’s a risk worth taking.

I want to win consistently, and you don’t win consistently by keeping 38 year olds when they are at their highest trade value. You win consistently by building a young core that will play together for several years while continuing to develop young talent in the minors.

Sure, we’ve seen our share of young prospects not hit their peak. But, that comes with the territory. We look to players like Fernando Martinez but I promise you one thing, Baseball America wasn’t responsible for rushing him through the minor leagues and did not have a thing to do with the injuries that would set him back.

You cannot be afraid of the future because of how things went in the past.

There’s more work to be done. There’s no denying that. The outfield is still a mess, and the bullpen needs work. But, there is money to spend in the upcoming years and less holes to fill. Using free agency to fill in holes rather than build your team is how the best teams maximize the market.

There is more work to be done, but that doesn’t mean work hasn’t been done.

I recommended that patience with the off-season was what we needed. Now, I recommend being patient for the next 2 years to let the young talent the Mets have flourish within the system.

You can ALWAYS do what teams like Miami did last year and just go crazy within the free agent market and hope a bunch of overpaid veterans win you games. If the prospect angle doesn’t work, you can always just spend, spend, spend to try to make up for it just like the Dodgers are trying.

The Mets tried that. They tried spending, and sometimes over spending and it didn’t work and it ended up digging a very deep hole. It could have worked, but it didn’t.

The chance to build a young and talented team like this doesn’t come around all that often. That is something that we need to embrace because if it works, it could truly be something special for several years to come.

About the Author ()

Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980's teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he's in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.

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