R.A. Dickey trade the right move for Mets

R.A. Dickey walks off the mound after the

R.A. Dickey walks off the mound after the fourth inning of a game against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. (July 24, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

The best moment from the Mets' 2012 season was Johan Santana's June 1 no-hitter.

The second-best had to be R.A. Dickey's 20th win on Sept. 27 before 31,506 at a rocking Citi Field.

Who knew it was going to be his final home start as a Met? No one. Not for sure, anyway.

But going into the offseason, it was always a possibility. Dickey wanted a lucrative contract extension and the Mets -- playing hardball with the knuckleballer -- wanted to see if they could make the team better by trading one of their few valuable chips for some young talent.

Did the Mets make themselves better by trading Dickey and catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas to the Blue Jays for catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud, pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard, catcher John Buck and outfield prospect Wuilmer Becerra? No one knows. Not for sure, anyway.

We have to see the young talent during the next few years in Mets blue and orange. But it is a gamble general manager Sandy Alderson is wise to take.

Dickey is never going to have a season better than the National League Cy Young Award-winning one he just had. But even with Dickey having a dominant, transcendent and inspirational year, the Mets finished 74-88.

As venerable Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner says Branch Rickey told him during a salary dispute: "We finished last with you. We can finish last without you."

The Mets didn't finish last in 2012 -- thank you, dysfunctional Miami Marlins -- but it wasn't a season to cherish. There were moments to cherish, however, and Dickey provided more than his share.

The Mets don't need an erudite 38-year-old starting pitcher as much as they need better position players. Even two more probably isn't enough.

They have a potentially stellar major-league infield in Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada and David Wright. That's the good news.

The bad news was every other position. Catcher. The outfield.

Sorry, but players such as Thole, Lucas Duda and Jordany Valdespin will not make the Nationals, Braves and Phillies look over their shoulders in fear. Kirk Nieuwenhuis is an interesting prospect, but he struck out 98 times in 282 major-league at-bats as a rookie.

On Friday, Baseball America magazine came out with the Mets' Top 10 list of prospects. Those guys and gals do know what they are talking about. Seven of the 10 were righthanded pitchers, starting with No. 1 Zack Wheeler, who should be in the Mets' rotation by midseason. And now you can add Syndergaard to that list.

The three position players were shortstop Gavin Cecchini (2), outfielder Brandon Nimmo (3) and infielder Wilmer Flores (6). Only Flores has made it to Double-A at this point.

So where was the improvement in the Mets' lineup going to come from? They weren't going to sign a big bat. Nick Swisher would have been an interesting player for the Mets to pursue, but they weren't going to spend big money on free agents. Right or wrong, that's the way it is until Santana's contract and the departed Jason Bay's dollars are off the books after the upcoming season.

So Alderson had to deal. And all he had to offer was Dickey and starting pitcher Jon Niese.

Did Dickey seal his fate when he groused about his contract status at the Mets' holiday party last week? Nah.

That wasn't his finest moment, of course; talking about being offered only $20 million with superstorm Sandy victims in the room was bad public relations by a good guy.

But the Mets probably were going to trade him anyway. Because it was the right thing for them to do. Really, it was the only thing for them to do.