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Will Mets play hardball with knuckleballer Dickey?

New York Mets' starting pitcher RA Dickey pitcher

New York Mets' starting pitcher RA Dickey pitcher against the Milwaukee Brewers' in the top of the 2nd inning. (Sept. 29, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

R.A. Dickey is seeking a raise after going 11-9 with a 2.84 earned run average last season as the biggest surprise in the starting rotation.

Dickey is arbitration eligible.

How much is Dickey worth? Plenty, to the Mets, who start spring training without injured ace Johan Santana and a questionable group of starters after Mike Pelfrey. Dickey’s ERA was 10th best in the majors, just behind Atlanta’s Tim Hudson.

Hudson made $9 million last year. Dickey earned between $650,000 and $750,000 and while he certainly cannot commad Hudson’s numbers, Dickey would like a two or three-year deal for well over $1 million a season. New general manager Sandy Alderson ha taken a tight fisted approach to spending on new players, so this will be a first look at how he intends to handle his own roster. Pelfrey and Angel Pagan are also eligible for arbitration.

The Mets may not want to go overboard with the 36-year-old Dickey, who needs to prove he isn’t a one-year wonder. Therein lies the basis of negotiation and possible arbitration hearing—something neither side relishes.

Dickey is 33-37 lifetime and coming off his second winning season in the majors. He was not projected to be in the big leagues last season until the Mets, who had signed him to a minor league deal, bought him from Triple-A Buffalo last May. He shut out the Phillies in his second start. He was remarkably consistent and his best outing came on Aug. 13 when he one-hit Philadelphia in a complete game victory.

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