In his most pointed comments of the offseason, Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey made it clear Tuesday morning that his patience is wearing thin regarding negotiations for an extension, which have unfolded slowly despite what the reigning Cy Young Award winner believes to be modest demands.
"I feel like we're asking for even less than what's fair," Dickey said while making an appearance at the team's annual Kids Holiday Party.
Dickey is seeking a two-year, $26-million extension that would kick in after the 2013 season, according to a person with knowledge of the talks. But the Mets have offered a two-year deal worth $20 million, essentially the same proposal that has been on the table since the winter meetings.
Said Dickey: "We're still a ways away."
Dickey remains on the trade block, though no suitors have been willing to meet the Mets' demands. Contract extension talks have been equally fruitless.
According to the source, after more than two months, the sides have yet to exchange formal offers. Despite a series of informal conversations, only marginal progress has been made on closing a $6-million salary gap.
Said Dickey: "There is a surprise sometimes when things don't get done quickly and you already think that you're extending the olive branch."
That olive branch comes in the form of his demands. Compared to the deals being struck by free agents this winter, the journeyman-turned-ace is willing to work cheap.
Zack Greinke's six-year, $147-million deal will cost the Dodgers more than $24.5 million per season. Hiroki Kuroda agreed to a one-year, $15-million deal with the Yankees and Dan Haren signed a one-year, $13-million deal with the Nationals.
Over the last three years, Dickey has arguably been the most valuable pitcher on the market, posting an ERA of 2.95 over that span. Even if the Mets meet his price, Dickey would be owed $31 million over the next three seasons, or an average of $10.3 million per year.
Still, Dickey's status remains essentially unchanged since the winter meetings.
"Some of the surrounding circumstances have changed somewhat," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "So I would hope that we would have more clarity within a few days. But in the meantime, we're more or less status quo."
For now, the status quo means remaining in limbo, waiting for the Mets to either trade him or pay him.
Dickey said he has tried not to take negotiations personally. But at times, the 38-year-old said that task has been difficult, especially since he has never experienced hashing out a long-term deal.
"Things are emotional for me," Dickey said. "I feel like when people say it's business, it's not personal, well that just means it's not personal for them. It can be personal for me."
Indeed, plenty about Dickey's fate remains in flux, though he continues to take a hard line in one critical area: He refuses to negotiate during the season.
If negotiations break down, and he is forced to play the final season of his current deal for $5 million, Dickey would become a free agent and likely bid farewell to the Mets.
"It would be unfortunate, because that probably is going to mean that I'm not going to be back," Dickey said. "And that would be sad."