Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Is R.A. Dickey Getting (Shudder To Think) Greedy?

R.A. Dickey had a tremendous season for the Mets in 2012, winning 20 games and the Cy Young Award.  As a result, the Mets picked up his $5 million option for 2013, a team-friendly deal that's far below what most reigning Cy Young winners earn.

Now Dickey is looking for a two-year extension that would keep him in New York through the 2015 campaign.  What would it take to keep him in Flushing for the two seasons after his option year?  Approximately $26 million, give or take a few Susan B. Anthonys.  What are the Mets offering their knuckleballer?  $20 million for two years.  The $3 million per year difference might be enough to write an unwanted final chapter in Dickey's storybook career in New York.

For as much as I appreciate everything R.A. Dickey has done for the Mets, I advise him to take the money if he's smart (which he is) and doesn't want to tarnish his legacy (which he could).  Here's why.

In 2000, the Detroit Tigers offered free agent outfielder Juan Gonzalez what would have been a record eight-year, $140 million contract.  To put that into perspective, the Mets just signed David Wright to a team-record eight-year, $138 million contract.  Gonzalez was being offered his amount when David Wright was still popping pimples in high school.

Gonzalez certainly had earned that sizable contract, winning two American League Most Valuable Player Awards and averaging 43 HR and 140 RBI from 1996 to 1999 while leading the Texas Rangers to three division titles.  What did he do with the lucrative offer?

He turned the Tigers down.

At the time, Gonzalez was 30 years old.  He wasn't exactly a spry youth, but he certainly wasn't at the end of the line.  Or so he thought.

The slugger played six more seasons in the major leagues, with only one of them being All-Star caliber (2001, when he finished the year with 35 HR and 140 RBI as a member of the Cleveland Indians).  After the 2001 campaign, Gonzalez's production took a hard tumble, as he averaged nine home runs and 30 RBIs per season in each of his last four years in the big leagues.  He played one game in his second go-round with the Cleveland Indians in 2005, never playing again in the big leagues.  Had he signed the deal with the Tigers back in 2000, he still would have been paid through 2007.  Instead, he was out of baseball, carrying a much lighter wallet with him.

That brings us back to R.A. Dickey.

As stated before, Dickey is a smart man.  But that highly evolved brain of his is still 38 years old, as is his pitching arm.  If he were to sign the two year, $20 million extension that the Mets are offering him, he'd be earning $10 million in 2015, a season that would end approximately one month before his 41st birthday.  How many other pitchers who have already blown out 40 candles can say they make that type of money?  Not many.

Greg Maddux was a 40-year-old pitcher in 2006, winning 15 games for the Cubs and Dodgers.  His salary that year was $9 million.  The future Hall of Famer earned $10 million as a 41-year-old in 2007 and $10 million more as a 42-year-old in 2008.  His combined record during those final two seasons in which he earned $10 million per year was an un-Maddux-like 22-24. 

Greg Maddux was one of the best pitchers of all-time.  R.A. Dickey had a 41-50 won-loss record prior to his Cy Young-winning campaign.  It's like comparing apples and oranges.

Dickey had a great season in 2012.  He has earned the right to demand a higher salary.  But asking for a two-year, $26 million extension at his age is just plain silly, especially when Greg Maddux, a future Hall of Fame pitcher with a far more attractive résumé, was only making $10 million just four years ago at a similar age. 

In 2003, Juan Gonzalez would have been in the fourth year of his eight-year, $140 million contract.  Instead, he was missing 80 games for the Texas Rangers as a teammate of R.A. Dickey, earning a fraction of what he would have earned as a member of the Detroit Tigers.  Considering that Dickey saw firsthand what a mistake Gonzalez made when they were teammates, don't you think he wouldn't be as adamant with his contract demands, especially given his age and mediocre record prior to 2012?

Take the money, R.A.  There's no reason to roll the dice when you saw how easy it is for snake eyes to appear.

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