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On the surface, the suggestion that the Mets could trade R.A. Dickey this offseason seems like the next step in the Alienate Your Fans guidebook that the team has been following for most of the last decade.
Dickey's performance and personality have made him the most loved of any current member of the Mets and no one wants to see him leave town because they know knuckleballers can keep pitching well into their 40s. He's set to make $5 million this season and the team's been talking to him about an extension that would keep him in Queens before 2013.
Those talks haven't gone as well as general manager Sandy Alderson might have hoped, which has led him to be honest about the other option on the table. Trading Dickey and trying to fill other holes while relying on the relative depth of his pitching staff.
"I definitely would hate to give up an R.A. Dickey or Jon Niese or Dillon Gee, but it is our strength and probably something we have to entertain," Alderson said. "But at the same time we’re not looking to go out of our way. If there is a place to have a strength, in terms of where we are and where we want to be, starting pitching is a place to have that strength."
Giving up Gee isn't going to get you anything of value while Niese could be an interesting chip after taking a big step forward last season. The fact that teams would be locked into four years and at least $25 million for a guy with one good year under his belt could be troublesome, but one imagines the Mets didn't give him that deal because they thought he'd maxed out his ability and would like to reap the benefits of further growth.
Dickey doesn't hold much promise of growth, but it's a nice plateau he's found for himself. It's a plateau that any contender would be happy to add to their landscape, especially with this year's price leaving them room to make other moves, and that could lead to some interesting offers.
If Alderson can get the Mets a young big league outfielder or catcher and some future help, it's something he'd have to listen to given how little they have at either of those positions and how little is available in free agency. Listening isn't the same as pulling the trigger, obviously, but even contemplating the notion is sure to lead to rage from some corners of the Mets universe.
We know this because there was rage about any suggestion of trading Jose Reyes, who wound up walking away in free agency anyway, and there's been rage about suggestions that the team should deal David Wright. Wright and Dickey are in similar straits from the Mets perspective and if the team feels they cannot reach a long-term agreement with either player, they should absolutely trade them.
They delayed the inevitable with Reyes and wound up with nothing to show for it unless draft picks develop at some point in the indeterminate future. They accepted the inevitable with Carlos Beltran and got Zach Wheeler, who they believe will front their rotation for years.
Keeping Dickey for several more years would be great, but keeping him for one more doesn't do anybody any good unless you think the Mets are on the cusp of a title. You don't think that, because reasonable people don't have unreasonable thoughts, so you should recognize that Plan B has to be trading Dickey now.