Ferguson: Blue Jays could use knuckleballer Dickey

Scott Ferguson
11/9/2012 5:38:56 PM
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The New York Mets are in a touchy situation. Their two marquee players, David Wright and R.A Dickey, are just a year away from free agency. The Mets know they can't afford to let them both walk after losing their star shortstop, Jose Reyes, to free agency a year ago to the Marlins.
The problem is the Mets lineup, especially the outfield, is full of holes and they could use catching help as well. Trading one of Wright or Dickey could help fortify the roster for the future. Dickey is the most likely to be dealt because he and the Mets apparently differ on how long a contract a 38-year-old knuckleballer should get.
The Mets want him for two years. Dickey, a classic late bloomer, is rumoured to want four years. Mets GM Sandy Alderson conceded that trading a Cy Young winner would be highly unusual. Truth is, Dickey hasn't won the Cy Young yet since it won't be awarded until next week. But maybe Alderson knows something we don't and certainly Dickey's 20-6 record and 2.73 ERA would make him the deserving choice. If Dickey is traded, it will be most certainly to a top contender that could use his arm to push them over the top.
Here's where the Blue Jays come in. They need an ace; someone who could take some of the pressure off Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow. Dickey, the only active knuckleball pitcher in the Majors has averaged just over 205 innings over the last three seasons, including 233.2 over the 2012 season.

Yes, Dickey is only 61-56 over his career - pretty pedestrian for someone commanding big bucks - and he is 38-years -old. However, over the last three seasons with the Mets he's 49-28.

This would be a bit of a gamble, but the Jays do have depth in catching and in the outfield. Knuckleball pitchers tend to have a long shelf life and Dickey could bridge the gap until the likes of Aaron Sanchez, Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard are big-league ready.
 I have been fascinated by knuckleball pitchers since I was kid, and whenever there was a chance to see Hoyt Wilhelm, if his team was on the Saturday game of the week, I'd stick around the TV and hope his services were needed out of the pen.
 The greatest knuckleball story features the 1945 Washington Senators. Four of the five starters the Nats used that season featured the "Dancing Butterfly" pitch. The foursome included Dutch Leonard, Roger Wolff, Mickey Hafner and Johnny Niggeling. They ranged in age from 32 to 41.

These four combined for 60 victories and 60 complete games, and none had an ERA over 3.47. Grant you, it was the year World War II ended and the rosters around baseball weren't necessarily the strongest, but this Washington team finished 87-67 and wound up in second place in the American League - just a game-and-a-half back of Detroit, the eventual World Series winners over the Cubs. The Senators weren't officially eliminated until the final day of the season. It also happened to be the best season of Washington baseball, until this year's Washington Nations won the National League East and made the postseason.
There was also a pitcher on that 1945 Washington team by the name of Joe Cleary. He only pitched in one game and only retired one batter. He gave up seven earned runs on five hits and finished with a 189.00 ERA, the worst in history for a pitcher who retired at least one batter. He never pitched another game in the Majors.
Hall of Famer, Rick Ferrell, caught 91 games that season at age 39. Catching that many knucklers and chasing down that many wild pitches should have earned some kind of special award.
 All Vince Carter's talk this week on Cybulski and Co. on TSN 1050 made me wonder; if the Blue Jays could ever reconnect with Roy Halladay? 'Doc' is going into the final year of his contract with the Phillies at $20 million. He will be 36 in May and does have a vesting option for 2014. However, for that to kick in Roy would have to pitch 258.2 innings in 2013. He's only ever reached that total once before, with the Blue Jays in 2002 when he hurled 266 innings.
The Phillies are an older team and at some point next season if the Phils aren't contenders, they could consider moving Halladay to a team that needs him for the stretch run. Yes, he does have a limited no-trade clause. At the start of each season he can submit a list of 21 teams he would refuse to go to. That would leave eight the Phils could move him to unencumbered. I'd love to know if the Blue Jays are going to be on that list this season.
Halladay hasn't won a World Series yet, but he has all the Hall of Fame credentials. He's one of only five men to have won the Cy Young Award in both leagues. He has a perfect game, another no-hitter and he has a work ethic second to none. The Jays were able to bring back Pat Borders, Tony Fernandez and Alfredo Griffin later in their careers. Having Halladay end his career in Toronto would just feel right.

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