COMMENTARY | For years, I have believed that the New York Mets would win the 2013 World Series.
It's simple math. The Mets won their first World Series in 1969, seven years after the franchise began. Their next championship came in 1986, 17 years later. Continue the pattern and add 27 years to the second title, and that takes you to 2013.
But then the Mets traded reigning National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for prospects in a blockbuster seven-player deal. The trade, if it doesn't entirely deny the Mets a 2013 title shot, at least limits their playoff chances significantly.
And it can be dangerous to trade established stars for unproven prospects. Rany Jazayerli wrote a piece for Grantland in December 2011 that argued that MLB teams have created a "prospect bubble" by overvaluing them.
But the Dickey trade was the right move for the Mets.
Yes, they traded the present for the future. Yes, they gave up a major league star for minor league maybes. And yes, it was all worth it.
The centerpieces of the deal, catcher Travis d'Arnaud and pitcher Noah Syndergaard, were the cream of the Toronto crop -- the top two prospects in the organization. But more than that, they fill two of the Mets' biggest needs.
The Mets haven't had a strong presence behind the plate since Paul Lo Duca. Their best catcher since Lo Duca has been Josh Thole (sent to Toronto in the Dickey trade), who has Lo Duca's slap-hitting ability but none of the toughness and attitude that made Lo Duca invaluable to the Mets' 2006 playoff run.
Finally, New York has a long-term answer in d'Arnaud, who can hit for power and play solid defense. D'Arnaud is widely considered one of the best catching prospects in baseball.
Syndergaard, meanwhile, is big, throws hard and strikes people out -- he is the type of power pitcher the Mets have lacked in recent years. The 1969 Mets had Tom Seaver. The 1986 Mets had Dwight Gooden. The 2012 Mets had Johan Santana's 89-mph fastball and Dickey's 80-mph knuckleball.
Syndergaard's four-seam fastball touches the upper 90s. His two-seamer sits in the mid-90s. In an organization that has gotten used to relying on savvy veterans and control specialists (Santana, Dickey, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez). Syndergaard could help turn the staff over to a younger generation that can overpower hitters instead of relying only on location.
Dickey, though, might have outvalued even d'Arnaud and Syndergaard if the Mets were ready to win now. But they aren't. The 2013 Mets weren't going to be contenders even with Dickey heading the staff.
A healthy Mets rotation could have been playoff-quality -- it would feature Dickey, Santana, Jonathon Niese and Matt Harvey. And Daniel Murphy, David Wright and Ike Davis are a solid 2-3-4 combination in the batting order. But looking at the rest of the team, any dreams of a playoff run fall apart.
Ruben Tejada, Lucas Duda, John Buck, Mike Baxter and Kirk Nieuwenhuis will likely make up the rest of the Mets' lineup -- an anti-Murderers' Row. And New York's bullpen is a complete disaster.
The 2013 Mets didn't have a chance at a championship. With d'Arnaud and Syndergaard, the 2016 Mets might.
D'Arnaud and Syndergaard are the latest key additions to a core of young New York players that has quickly changed from one of Major League Baseball's worst to one of its best.
Matt Harvey (who pitched strongly after being called up in mid-2012), Zach Wheeler, and Syndergaard are top pitching prospects, and Niese is just 26 years old. Davis, who has proven 30-home-run power, is only 25. And d'Arnaud and Brandon Nimmo are high-end hitters.
When those players hit the big leagues, the Mets could suddenly become contenders. Wright, the face of the franchise, will only be in his early 30s. And the team's young major leaguers will have matured. The Mets have traded their way from a small, low-upside window of contention to an extended, high-potential window that should open in the near future.
Dickey was also at peak value when he was traded. Dickey is 38, and 2012 was a career year for him. But most athletes don't have much staying power past their late 30s. The fact that he is a knuckleballer might allow him more longevity, but it also makes consistent production less likely.
The knuckleball is a volatile pitch. Even the pitcher doesn't know how it will move. A few extra breaks into the middle of the strike zone, and suddenly a dominant knuckleballer isn't as dominant. So there's some uncertainty tied to Dickey -- not just to the prospects.
The Mets' present was too limited even with Dickey -- and its future too bright with d'Arnaud, Syndergaard and the other prospects -- to have held onto him.
Maybe in five years, a giant mural of Syndergaard or Harvey or Wheeler will tower over New York City like Doc Gooden's did in the 1980s. New York once again belongs to its young guns.
David Adler is a staff writer at The Daily Tar Heel, where he covers UNC sports. He is a New Yorker who has followed the Mets since he was in Little League.
You can follow David on Twitter @dadlerUNC
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