December 18, 2012

The Jays landed an ace, but not a title – yet

by Dan Bilicki In: Baseball

The Toronto Blue Jays have the ace they’ve been searching for since dealing Roy Halladay. His name: Robert Allen Dickey.

The trade to land the National League Cy Young Award winner has been finalized with the Mets, giving the Jays one of the deepest rotations in all of baseball.

After the trade earlier this off-season with the Marlins to land Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle, the Jays will probably slide their incumbent top arms, Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero, to the fourth and fifth starters, respectively.

How bad of a fall is that for Romero? Who started the 2012 season as the Jays ace and opening-day starter before bombing mid-season and racking up a 13-game losing streak and one of the highest ERAs in the league. His failure made the Jays dealings for front-end starting pitching a necessity.

So what are the benefits of landing Dickey? There’s more than just the fact that he won the Cy Young.

Examples? He’s a certified innings eater. As a knuckleballer, he’s a low injury risk; he doesn’t even have an Ulnar Collateral Ligament in his elbow, so he’ll never need Tommy John surgery; knuckleballers can pitch into their mid-40s, just look at Tim Wakefield; he has been good for three solid years – one of only 10 pitchers with 600-plus innings and an ERA under 3.00; finally, knuckleballers often screw up the opposing team’s hitters the next game, making other starters on your team more effective.

Of course, there are some downsides to this trade. For one, they Jays did have to give up quite a bit to get him. Two top of the line prospects are more than you should want to give up for a 38-year-old starter who was toiling in the minors just four years ago? Well, yeah, we kind of just went through the many positives of landing Dickey.

And for anyone that questions the contract extension that Dickey signed, I ask one simple question: Would you not want to pay a reigning Cy Young winner a total of $30 million over three years? That sounds pretty decent to me. Especially when you look at how much Zach Greinke just got from the Dodgers.

There’s also a wild card here and that’s the fact that the knuckleball is difficult to catch. Landing his personal catcher from New York – Josh Thole – helps, but having him play takes starter J.P. Arencibia out of the lineup. Thole batted .234 last year – comparable to Arencibia – but without nearly as much power. And if Thole gets hurt, the duty of catching Dickey would fall to minor leaguer Mike Nickeas.

But, even with the Yankees hurt and cutting payroll, the Red Sox going through a weird rebuilding phase, the Rays loading up on prospects again and the Orioles being destined for a regression, let’s not just be so quick to hand the Jays the AL East title or even a wild-card berth. Remember: You don’t win on paper. So let’s just see how this all plays out before handing the Jays the title.

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