Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Why the Mets Should Keep Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey

by John Vittas

As MLB's Winter Meetings progress into their second day, reports of the Mets shopping starters R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese continue to surface.
Right now, it appears gauging interest for Dickey is GM Sandy Alderson's priority, but it seems as though most teams are not willing to sacrifice much for the 38-year old knuckleballer.
If no deal can be struck with Dickey, reports suggest the Mets could look to deal Jon Niese instead, who has more trade value around the league.

The Mets have Jon Niese locked up for five more years at just $5 million per season.

But, why trade either of them? The Mets have a very solid rotation heading into 2013, with Niese and Dickey as the 1-2 punch. They are the constants, the two starters Dan Warthen and Terry Collins can rely on. Matt Harvey is essentially a rookie and Johan Santana and Dillon Gee are returning from bouts with injury and fatigue.

Yes, the Mets have desperate needs for catchers, outfielders and relievers. And yes, if the Mets deal Dickey or Niese, they have plenty of reinforcements in Jeremy Hefner, Zach Wheeler, Jenrry Mejia, Collin McHugh, Jeurys Familia, etc. But everyone knows that pitching wins championships, so I still can't comprehend why the Mets are trying to get rid of their two best.

I love Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler more than anyone, but they still haven't proven as much as Dickey and Niese have. Why plan on a 2014 rotation of Harvey, Wheeler, Gee, Mejia and another prospect, when you can have Dickey, Niese, Harvey, Wheeler and Gee. <<<- That second one sounds like a World Series contender to me.

The Mets are banking on a laundry list of legitimate pitching prospects, headed by right-hander Zach Wheeler, who was acquired from the Giants in the Carlos Beltran trade.

The thing people seem to be forgetting is that, yes Dickey is 38 and relies on one pitch, but that one pitch is something he can throw until he's 60 years old. And it's a pitch that has been getting better and better each and every year. He has the best knuckleball in the history of the game, and there's no ceiling on how much better he can make it. To me, giving him a 3 year, $40 million contract is an absolute bargain, and the Mets should sign it right now.

The man has done everything for this team the past three years. When the Mets went to a six-man rotation, he continued to take the ball on short rest even though the team that was clearly out of the race. What David Wright has done for this team the past 8 years, Dickey has done the past 3.
What better leaders for a young team on the rise than a pair of mature professionals like Wright and Dickey.
But right now, if I'm R.A. Dickey, I'm offended and disgusted by these trade rumors, after everything I've accomplished. I guess you can just add it to the list of adversity he's dealt with throughout his life.

2012 Cy Young Award Winner, R.A. Dickey. At 38, Dickey is the third oldest pitcher to win the award.

And on the other hand, at 26, Jon Niese has established himself as a solid #2/#3 starter and there's no reason to think he can't keep it up for another 8-10 years. The Mets have signed a lot of bad contracts in their day, but Niese's was not one of them. The team has him locked up for 5 more years, so why on earth would you consider giving up one of the best signings in Mets history?

I know everyone's response is the outfield and catching holes. But, there are alternative options:
People forgot about Kirk Nieuwenhuis after he got hurt last year, but he can be an everyday CFer and Lucas Duda in right isn't the worst option in the world. At 26 years old, he's only going to get better.
In my opinion, the Mets are 2 impact players away from being a contender. They need a power-hitting left fielder, which could be a Cody Ross/Ryan Ludwick type. Or, if they want to wait, prospects Cory Vaughn and Cesar Puello fit that mold as well and are only a year or two away.

The Mets don't figure to be big players in free agency this offseason, but former Cardinals and Reds' outfielder Ryan Ludwick is one big bat the Mets are interested in.

Catching, to me, is the biggest hole on this team. If there's any way the Mets can land A.J. Pierzynski through free agency, then the problem is solved immediately. Trading for Blue Jays' catchers J.P. Arencibia or Travis d'Arnaud can also aid the situation. Or, again, if the Mets want to wait, they have Juan Centeno, Francisco Pena and Kevin Plawecki on the way up too, with Plawecki (last year's 1st Rd. pick out of Purdue) being the key name there.


Mets catching prospect Kevin Plawecki (left) and Royals AAA outfielder and #1 prosepct Wil Myers (right)

All in all, if the Mets can land a big-time prospect and "difference maker" like the Royals' Wil Myers, then trading Dickey or Niese makes some sense. But if they can't pull in an impact player like that, I don't see how trading the two best pitchers on the staff makes any sense in a league where success is built on pitching.

Comments below are appreciated, let the debate begin!

You can follow the author of this article, John Vittas on Twitter @JohnVittas3