NEW YORK -- Mets general manager Sandy Alderson made it clear that he wanted a "difference maker" in exchange for R.A. Dickey, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner. As it turned out, Alderson may have picked up two.
The Mets completed a seven-player deal for the 38-year-old Dickey on Monday, with the Blue Jays sending catcher Travis d'Arnaud, right-hander Noah Syndergaard, catcher John Buck and Minor Leaguer Wuilmer Becerra to New York. The Mets packaged catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas with Dickey to Toronto. Several reports have indicated that the Jays might add cash or an additional prospect to the deal to offset Buck's salary.
Prospects acquired by Mets
Travis d'Arnaud, C: d'Arnaud, ranked No. 11 on MLB's Top 100 Prospects list and No. 1 on the Blue Jays' Top 20 at the time of the trade, is the best catching prospect in the game currently. The backstop knows what it's like to be involved in a deal for an ace, having come to Toronto from Philadelphia for Roy Halladay. d'Arnaud has the skills to be an outstanding all-around everyday catcher at the big league level, and he's just about ready to test them out. Agile and athletic behind the plate, d'Arnaud also has a good arm to help control the running game. The bat really started to come around in 2011 and continued in '12, showing his ability to hit for average and power. The only thing that has held d'Arnaud back is injuries, with a left knee injury cutting his 2012 season short and perhaps keeping him from a callup to the big leagues. Assuming a return to health, he should be ready to take over in New York very soon.
Noah Syndergaard, RHP: Syndergaard was No. 83 on MLB's Top 100 Prospects list and No. 3 on the Blue Jays' Top 20 at the time of the trade. The young right-hander had an outstanding full-season debut, as the 2010 supplemental first-round pick was a Midwest League All-Star, finishing third in the league in strikeouts. He would have been fourth in ERA had he thrown enough innings to qualify. A hard thrower, Syndergaard is much more than arm strength. He does get his fastball into the upper 90s and commands it fairly well. His power breaking ball has the chance to be above average as it becomes more consistent, and his changeup should also be above average or better. With a strong and projectable frame, he has all the tools to be a frontline starter in the future. All he needs are innings and experience to get there.
d'Arnaud is the Mets' biggest prize for parting ways with Dickey, but New York also added another potential front-of-the-rotation arm to its farm system in Syndergaard. d'Arnaud was ranked by MLB.com as the No. 1 prospect in Toronto's bountiful farm system, and Syndergaard wasn't far behind at No. 3.
While trading Dickey might be an admission that the Mets don't expect to contend for a championship in the near future, adding d'Arnaud and Syndergaard to an improving Minor League organization could pay off in a big way for New York in the long run.
Long considered one of the top young talents in baseball, d'Arnaud clocked in at No. 11 overall on MLB.com's 2012 Prospect Watch. The Jays initially acquired the backstop from the Phillies in 2009 for another Cy Young winner, Roy Halladay, and d'Arnaud might have already made his big league debut had he not suffered a season-ending ligament tear in his left knee in June.
In 67 games prior to his injury, d'Arnaud batted .333 with 16 homers and a .975 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) at Triple-A Las Vegas, a notoriously hitter-friendly environment. If he doesn't break camp with the Major League club, d'Arnaud will likely stay put in Las Vegas, now the Mets' Triple-A affiliate.
Syndergaard posted a 2.60 ERA with 122 strikeouts and 31 walks in 103 2/3 innings last season at Class A Lansing. The Blue Jays' third-ranked player on MLB.com's Prospect Watch, he figures to slot into the Mets' rotation at high Class A Advanced St. Lucie, putting him on track for a big league debut in late 2014 or early '15. He profiles as a mid- to top-of-the-rotation starter.
"I'm feeling real comfortable right now," Syndergaard said before the season, "and I think that will show on the field."
The 20-year-old right-hander is projected to reach the Majors in 2014, by which time the Mets' other prized young pitchers, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, should be entrenched in the rotation. Wheeler was also added to New York's system via trade, as Alderson sent Carlos Beltran to San Francisco in exchange for Wheeler at the 2011 Trade Deadline.
But that's the long-term vision for the Mets. Meanwhile, Dickey's impact on both the Blue Jays' and Mets' rotations should be obvious immediately, as New York will be without its No. 1 starter and Toronto will boast one of the strongest starting fives in the AL.
Indeed, only time will tell whether Alderson got the difference makers he sought in exchange for his knuckleballing Cy Young.