A Trade the New York Mets Made, and One They Should Have Made

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COMMENTARY | What do R.A. Dickey and Justin Upton have in common?

Nothing, really, except for the fact that the New York Mets made headlines this offseason by trading Dickey while they could have been making even bigger headlines now had they traded for Upton.

If you follow the Mets, you must have noticed how bad it got for Dickey during Saturday's start at Rogers Centre in Toronto -- so bad that the hometown crowd booed him off the mound.

The frustration was directed at Dickey, but the fans might as well have booed the whole team off the field. The Blue Jays have been that bad this year. At 12-21, they sit in last place in the American League East. This was a team that was supposed to contend for the division title.

In a way, Dickey has come to symbolize Toronto's problems. Sure, we knew he was a 38-year-old pitcher who had to learn to throw the knuckleball after it looked like his big-league career was over, but this is a guy who won 20 games and the National League Cy Young Award last season when he played for the Mets.

When the Mets traded Dickey to the Blue Jays, they brought back one prospect (Travis d'Arnaud) who should be ready to play in the big leagues this year, one (Noah Syndergaard) who is at least a year away, and one (Wuilmer Becerra) who at the very least will help the Mets restock their farm system with everyday players. (The Mets also acquired veteran catcher John Buck in the trade.)

That the Mets traded a guy who just won the Cy Young Award was one thing. That they questioned if it was in their best interest, long term, to keep a pitcher who was 38 when they might be a few years away from winning was another. But the fact remains that the Mets traded their best pitcher, and there are always risks involved in doing that. However, given what they got for him in return, you could live with the deal.

Now, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson's move looks brilliant. Quite frankly, Dickey has been bad so far. Imagine if this happened in New York. People would have been all over Alderson for not unloading Dickey when his stock was high. Fans and media would have been all over him for holding onto an aging pitcher when the team had major work to do before it could even think about contending.

No Mets fan would ever wish for this to happen to Dickey, one of the real nice guys in the game. But fans are who they are, and it's a lot easier for them to accept the trade now that Dickey's struggling.

It might be the American League East, but it could also be that we've seen the best from Dickey, and that those days won't return. He's 2-5 with a 5.36 earned run average and turned in an awful performance on Saturday (seven runs in six innings pitched) that added to the Blue Jays' misery.

With all that said, it's the trade that the Mets didn't make that we should be talking about.

When Justin Upton was traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Atlanta Braves in January, Mets fans probably didn't think much of the move, except, of course, for the fact that a division rival was adding a top-notch player. But, then again, Mets fans have grown accustomed to seeing other teams add star players for quite some time.

But the Mets wasted what I thought was an excellent opportunity to grab a 25-year-old player who is signed through the 2015 season at a reasonable salary. Upton has the potential to be a star player. This year, that's been the case.

In April, Upton was named National League Player of the Month as he led the majors in home runs with 12. Just think: Upton could have been a Met. Imagine a lineup with Upton batting third and David Wright behind him, or the other way around. Imagine how different the Mets' outfield would be -- offensively and defensively -- with Upton patrolling center field. Given the current state of the Mets' outfield, the talent of Upton, and the opportunity to add a young star, this was a no-brainer, if you ask me. And I realize they would have had to give up considerable talent to acquire Upton. It still would have made sense.

Here's what they would have been getting: A 25-year-old outfielder who is signed for three more years at a cost of $38.5 million. Last year, he hit .280 with 17 home runs and 67 runs batted in, in what would have to be considered a down year. In 2011, he hit 31 home runs and in 2009, he batted .300. Upton was the first overall pick in the 2005 draft.

But the Mets never made a deal for Upton. Instead, he's a Brave, and the Mets are stuck with an outfield that's below average. The Braves are 19-12 and in first place in the NL East. The Mets are 12-16 and in fourth place.

Things could have been a lot different had the Mets pulled the trigger on a move that would have dramatically changed this franchise in 2013 and beyond.

Instead, they settled on unloading Dickey, who is quickly finding out that life outside of Citi Field isn't as welcoming.

Charles Costello has followed the Mets closely since the rookie years of Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). He was a beat reporter assigned to cover the Mets during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.

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