In 2010, when the Mets signed journeyman R.A. Dickey to a minor-league contract, they essentially purchased a lottery ticket. In each case, the odds of hitting the jackpot seemed astronomical.
But nearly three years later, the Mets cashed in on their winning ticket, agreeing in principle Sunday to send Dickey to the Blue Jays as the center of a package that will return two highly regarded prospects. According to Foxsports.com, which reported the trade, Dickey first must consent to a contract extension with Toronto for the deal to become final.
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The pitcher and his representatives have until 2 p.m. Tuesday to agree to the extension, according to the report.
"Both sides win,'' one big-league executive said of the trade, which is centered around Dickey and Blue Jays catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud, according to a person with knowledge of the talks.
The Mets also will receive highly regarded pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard, catcher John Buck and another prospect, according to multiple reports. The Blue Jays will receive Dickey, catcher Josh Thole and another prospect.
For a time, the Mets and Dickey, 38, had held out hopes of an extension that would keep him in New York. A source said Dickey asked for a two-year, $26-million extension to take effect after the 2013 season. Considering the exploding market for starting pitchers, industry insiders considered his request relatively modest -- perhaps a reflection of his desire to remain with the Mets. But the club refused to move past an offer of two years for $20 million.
Dickey aired his frustrations about the progress of talks, irking the Mets in the process. They soon channeled their focus into exploring a trade, leading them to the brink of swinging a deal with the Jays.
It is unclear whether Dickey will increase his demands to get closer to market value during his talks with the Blue Jays, who view him as the latest piece in a stunning roster overhaul designed to put Toronto in the AL East driver's seat.
For the Mets, the trade represents the latest step in a methodical rebuilding project by general manager Sandy Alderson. If the deal holds its reported form, he will have flipped Dickey for arguably the two best prospects in the Jays' system.
D'Arnaud, 23, is regarded as major league-ready at catcher. Syndergaard, 20, boasts a power fastball that has scouts projecting a high ceiling. The righthander posted a 2.60 ERA in low Class A Lansing and could be in the rotation with the likes of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jon Niese as soon as 2014.
But before the Mets can bask in that bright future, they must accept a bumpy present. With Dickey, the Mets finished 74-88 and finished fourth in the NL East. Without him, their prospects of improving on that mark appear bleak.