Should Blue Jays sign RA Dickey beyond 2016?

Should the Toronto Blue Jays sign R.A. Dickey to a contract similar to the one Tim Wakefield signed with Boston 2005? 

Former knuckle ball pitcher and Boston Red Sox Tim Wakefield signed a contract in 2005 for 4M and allowed Boston to keep Wakefield for the rest of his career by agreeing to a ‘rolling’ extension, much like Blue Jays manager John Gibbons signed with the club.

Before this question can be answered, R.A. Dickey‘s value in today’s market must be established.

In 3 seasons, Dickey has failed to repeat his 2012 Cy young numbers many Blue Jay fans were expecting when he was acquired along with catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas from the New York Mets for Top prospects Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard, minor league OF Wuilmer Becerra and catcher John Buck. Dickey’s record with Toronto is 39 wins and 37 losses with 3.95 ERA and has pitched over 650 innings (5th most in ML over this span).

Dickey’s made 34 starts in 2013 and ’14, and 33 starts in ’15. This durability stabilized a Blue Jays rotation which was decimated over the years by injures to Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero, J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman, and more. During this time, R.A.’s 101 starts is the most in the Major Leagues, tied with James Shields, while his 39 wins places him in the top 20 wins for a pitcher during the same period.

Many Anti-Dickey Blue Jays fans point out how Dickey takes up two spots on the 25-man roster because he requires a personal catcher in Josh Thole, or the high number of home runs he allows, or that Dickey’s 11 wins in 2015 were his lowest win total since 2011, or his 206 walks during his time in Toronto is 7th most of all qualifying pitchers. All these points are true and have merit. However, it’s worth noting that R.A. went 8-1 in 99.2IP with a 2.8o ERA in the 2nd half of the season.

To put that in to perspective, only 9 other pitchers had more wins in the 2nd half than R.A. with Jake Arrieta leading the way with a 12-1 record. R.A. seems to improve in the 2nd half with a record of 6-3 record, 3.56 ERA in ’13 and 7-4, 3.57 ERA in ’14.

This is a long-winded way of saying that at age 41, R.A. Dickey doesn’t appear to be slowing down, which made picking up his 12M option for 2016 a logical decision.

Below is a chart of 9 free agent starting pitchers signed this off-season and their totals for the past 3 seasons. Excluded from this list are the elite pitchers, such as David Price and Zack Greinke. Also excluded from the list are guys that received more than what I feel R.A. Dickey would be offered as a free agent in 2016, guys like Jeff Samardzija (5yrs 90M), Jordan Zimmerman (5yrs 110M) and Johnny Cueto (6yrs 130M).

 IPFIPxWARSIERAWHIPHR/FB
RA Dickey654.24.365.44.311.2211.1
JA Happ422.24.045.44.041.349.7
Mike Leake598.23.776.03.911.2212.8
John Lackey605.13.598.43.681.2211.5
Mike Pelfrey341.04.643.44.731.557.9
Hisashi Iwakuma528.13.138.63.211.0413.1
Bartolo Colon587.13.859.23.951.218.5
Colby Lewis375.04.503.74.331.379.5
Marco Estrada459.24.323.64.041.1111.0
Scott Kazmir531.13.718.23.711.239.7

When ranking each category from 1-10, 1 being the best, Dickey finished in 6th place with Hisashi Iwakuma finishing in 1st and Mike Pelfrey in 10th. Iwakuma signed for one year and 12M and Pelfrey signed for two years and 16M. The richest contract on the list belongs to Mike Leake and Scott Kazmir who received average salaries of 16M/yr. Leake placed 3rd and Kazmir placed 5th on the list, but they also happen to be the two youngest on the list at 28 and 31 respectively.

Toronto signed two pitchers on the list, JA Happ signed for 3yrs/36M (13M AAV) and Marco Estrada signed for 2yrs/26M (12M AAV). Happ (33yrs) and Estrada (31yrs) ranked 8th and 7th on the list.

R.A. Dickey’s next contract will be effected by the following 4 pitchers: 37 yr-old John Lackey (2nd), 42 yr-old Bartolo Colon (4th), Scott Kazmir and Happ. With Colon signing 1yr/7.25M, Lackey signing 2yr/32M, Kazmir signing 3yr/48M and Happ signing 3yr/36M, Dickey’s next contract should fall in line with his current 12M AAV, being no less than 10M AAV and no more than 14.5M AAV.

The last thing which needs consideration is, will the Blue Jays even need Dickey’s services in 2017?

As things currently stand Marcus Stroman, Happ, Estrada and Drew Hutchison will all be under contract when spring training opens in 2017. This leaves the Blue Jays shy one starting pitcher. If Aaron Sanchez remains in the bullpen in 2016, we can look at possibly closing the books on his SP career and the same can be done if Roberto Osuna has another successful season as Toronto’s closer. Looking internally, the systems top arms are still a year or two away, with the closest starting pitching prospect being Conner Greene reaching New Hampshire in 2015. The lack of internal options will require Atkins and Shapiro to sign another free-agent SP during the next off-season or trade for SP help. This makes retaining Dickey’s 200IP beyond 2016 not only a good idea but an easy one.

*Featured Image: Credit: Keith Allison-flickr-CreativeCommons*

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Shaun Doyle

Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.