R.A. Dickey should probably start thinking how he wants to spend all the money he's about to get.
I recommend a thank-you dinner for Jeremy Guthrie.
Guthrie agreed to a three-year, $25 million deal with the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday in a move that was at least a little head-scratching. Sure, Guthrie pitched well for the Royals after a mid-season trade, going 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA. But he was absolutely awful during the first half with Colorado, posting a 3-9 record and 6.35 ERA. And it's not just a Colorado issue: he's got a 4.28 career ERA and has posted his fair share of clunker seasons.
Guaranteeing that kind of money to a pitcher of Guthrie's caliber for a financially conscious team like the Royals could turn into a mistake. It could also give Dickey an opportunity.
If this is the market for starting pitchers, then Dickey is primed to get paid.
The National League Cy Young winner will be entering the final year of his deal with the Mets in 2013, and the two sides are currently involved in contract negotiations. The talks have so far been kept fairly quiet, and no one's sure how the Mets will value Dickey, a knuckleballer who will be 38 years old next season -- but who has proven extraordinarily effective.
The team should look no further than the current crop of free agent pitchers. So far five starters have signed new contracts this offseason, Scott Baker (Cubs), Bartolo Colon (A's), Hisashi Iwakuma (Mariners), Jake Peavy (White Sox) and Guthrie.
It's an imperfect group and that could make it a perfect comparison for the imperfect case of Dickey. Baker missed 2012 with an injury; Colon was very good before being suspended in the middle of the season for using performance-enhancing drugs; Iwakuma began the year in the bullpen before transitioning to the rotation; Guthrie was uneven; Peavy was an ace.
This group is averaging $8.5 million per year on their newly signed contracts after posting an average of 2.2 WAR during their last MLB season (Baker was injured in 2012). Based on those numbers, they're being paid an average of $3.86 million per WAR.
If the Mets could get away with paying Dickey $8.5 million per season, this deal would already be done. But it's not that simple. Dickey posted 4.6 WAR in 2012 and has averaged 3.3 WAR during the last three seasons with the Mets. According to the market for WAR so far, that puts him in line for a salary of $12.7 million per season.
And that's not outrageous by any means. Consider that Peavy, an ace with a long injury history, got $29 million over two seasons – or $14.5 million per year – after averaging 3.06 WAR during the past three seasons.
The Mets likely won't have to commit long-term to Dickey, as they're expected to have to do to retain David Wright, but they will have to prove they still have deep pockets – and are capable of reaching into them every now and then.