It was springtime for R.A. Dickey.
At least, that's how he felt a day after his trade from the Mets to Toronto was finalized. He raved about joining an organization that "fans can be excited about coming to support."
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Even to him, his words sounded as if they were coated in the kind of optimism reserved for spring training.
But Dickey noted one key distinction.
"You don't feel like you're trying to convince yourself of the things you're saying," Dickey said, in his first public comments since he was traded for a package of prospects. "I think they're legitimate and that's exciting."
The Mets gave Dickey a place to revive his career, a fact he pointed out during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. But the Mets could not give him a realistic chance to play on a winner, an opportunity he will now enjoy with the Blue Jays thanks to a seven-player trade that came to fruition after nearly two months of uncertainty.
Even at the end of his life in limbo, Dickey couldn't say for sure whether the Mets began the offseason determined to trade him, or if all the machinations that followed were "all just strategy."
Said Dickey: "I think it grew into this."
Dickey sought a reasonable contract extension that would have paid him $31 million over the next three seasons. The Mets began negotiations with an offer of $19 million. Dickey insisted that he didn't take the lowball offer as an insult. Nevertheless, the Mets never topped what would be their final offer of an extension that would pay Dickey $25 million over three years.
With the negotiations stalled, Dickey "figured something was up." His instincts proved correct. By the middle of last week, the Mets and Jays had already agreed on the parameters of the deal. The only snag involved Dickey and whether he'd consent to an extension.
But before he was approached about his willingness to discuss a contract with Toronto, Dickey aired his frustrations to reporters while attending a holiday party for kids impacted by superstorm Sandy.
The comments reportedly irked the team's hierarchy and coincided roughly with reports alleging that Dickey had become too consumed with his own stardom.
"That was not the venue necessarily to do that in," said Dickey, who insisted he had been caught off guard by contract questions at the party.
However, he did not back off frustrations he shared that day. Nor did he pass on the chance to fire back at what he called oddly timed criticism about his clubhouse presence.
But there was little time for the uncomfortable situation to linger. On Saturday, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson informed Dickey that the Blue Jays had been granted a 72-hour window to discuss an extension. Even if talks fell through, Dickey knew for the first time that one way or another, he would not be returning to the Mets in 2013.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopolous made sure to clear the final hurdle himself. He flew to Dickey's home in Nashville to personally close the deal, which guarantees Dickey $30 million over the next three years.
In Toronto, Dickey will have the chance to play for a winner, an opportunity that never came to pass in New York. Nevertheless, Dickey felt as if he were leaving home.
"I am sad, and I think it's important for me to grieve that, I think it's important for me to grieve leaving New York," Dickey said. "I had a proverbial home there, I had a home among fans, I had a home in the organization."