INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- The Mets have come to the realization they may have to trade R.A. Dickey, and if that means he has to leave New York with the Cy Young Award in tow, so be it. Sandy Alderson said as much in talking about his plodding contract negotiations with the team's top pitcher.
"It would be a little unusual to trade a Cy Young winner," Alderson said Thursday. "But I can remember a time [with the A's] when we traded for the leading hitter in the National League. So it happens."
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Alderson was referring to Willie McGee, whom the A's acquired from the Cards in 1990, but Dickey's situation is on a much grander scale. Aside from Johan Santana's no-hitter, Dickey's remarkable 20-6 season was the only other reason to celebrate for the downtrodden franchise and its suffering fan base.
With Dickey expected to win the award, he would join Tom Seaver (1969, '73, '75) and Dwight Gooden (1986) as only the third Met to do so. Even when the team traded Seaver, it was almost two years after he took home the trophy.
But Alderson is facing some hard choices in trying to rebuild the Mets on the cheap, and trading Dickey could bring back a windfall of talent, which is why the front office has been gauging interest in the knuckleballer at the general managers' meetings -- especially without much movement in negotiations.
"What they are quietly doing is not proactively getting word out, which can devalue [the player]," one National League executive said, "yet smartly entertaining all calls to see if they can fill three needs with quality.
"Who has that I can only venture to guess. But they are wisely trying to create a chase due to this overinflated free-agent starting pitching market. They'd be crazy not to listen."
The Mets have plenty of needs, especially in the outfield and behind the plate, so trading Dickey at his peak value would be an easy way to strengthen the roster. But Alderson insists the first priority is to extend him, despite what currently appears to be a wide gap in negotiations.
"At this point, between trying to sign R.A. and trying to trade R.A., our focus -- almost exclusive focus -- has been to try and re-sign him," Alderson said.
Dickey is under the club's control for next season for $5 million after the Mets picked up his option last week. Determining his value going forward is tricky. Dickey is 38, and while throwing a knuckleball does not put the same stress on a pitcher's arm, he has suffered numerous injuries during the past two seasons.
In 2011, Dickey required pain-killing shots before each of his second-half starts to get him through a torn plantar fascia as well as a sore hip. This year, Dickey said he had been bothered by a torn abdominal muscle since April and required surgery last month to repair it.
There also is the question of how much longer Dickey intends to pitch. The feeling is that a two-year contract, with a series of mutual options, would work for both sides. But with fewer years, the annual value would be elevated. By comparison, Hiroki Kuroda, who is 37, is expected to command a one-year deal worth roughly $15 million for 2013.
With Dickey, add to that a Cy Young Award, but also subtract the unpredictability of his signature pitch. That would put the jumping off point in the two-year, $25-million range.
As far back as spring training, and also later in the season, Dickey expressed an interest in a contract extension. But the Mets wanted Dickey to prove himself over the long haul, and now that he has, it could prove impossible for Alderson to keep him in Flushing. Not with what the GM is trying to accomplish with limited resources.
"I don't want you to leave here thinking we're going to trade a starting pitcher and that's an absolute," Alderson said. "It's logical for us to consider that. It's all about leveraging the value."
With Marc Carig