R.A. Dickey's relatively short and nothing-short-of-amazing stay with the Mets began quietly and unceremoniously. It evolved quickly and unpredictably. And it ended abruptly and unpopularly.
The Mets traded Dickey at what could be the utmost peak of his value. The move didn't sit well with a large segment of the fan base, as Dickey's starts had become events in an otherwise subpar show at Citi Field. But the trade was absolutely defensible and, dare I say, necessary, given the Mets' competitive standing and Dickey's increasing worth and unpredictable future.
And it's a trade, we must remember, that would not have been completed without a stunning amount of selflessness on Dickey's part.
Just three years after they acquired Dickey on what seemed to be the last gasp of his career (before he figured out how to turn the knuckleball into a trustworthy and devastating pitch), just one month after he was named the National League Cy Young Award winner and just one year before he could bolt in free agency, the Mets found a particularly ambitious trading partner in the Blue Jays in an offseason in which premier starting pitching is at more of a premium than ever.
Good on the Mets, then, for suitably selling high, reeling in a package highlighted by two tantalizing young talents -- catcher Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard.
Understand, though, that the Mets owe Dickey a great deal of gratitude for the way this all played out. For not only did Dickey vastly exceed any reasonable expectation for what he'd contribute to the club when he first arrived, but his willingness to settle for what is undeniably a below-market contract extension with Toronto was the final facilitator toward getting the deal done.
Three years, $29 million. That's the contract Dickey signed with the Blue Jays, ripping up the one year and $5 million remaining on the deal he signed with the Mets and extending him through 2015.
While the dollar amount sounds like a lot to you and me, it's a pittance for a premier pitcher.
Dickey is 38, but knuckleballers age well. Dickey is the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, but his overall track record is limited. These facts all competed and congealed to make Dickey's an extremely complicated contractual case.
Yet the simple fact remains that this is an incredibly expensive environment, especially when it comes to starting pitching help. Look at both Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez, who possess numbers that trend only slightly better than league average over the last three seasons and certainly pale in comparison to Dickey's stats in that same span. They received guarantees of $147 million and $80 million, respectively. Hiroki Kuroda got $15 million for one year from the Yankees.
Dickey clearly could have commanded much more than he did, with the blockbuster trade hanging in the balance. Even though he was a year away from actual free agency, he had an enviable amount of leverage in hand. He could have used the 72-hour negotiation window afforded him to exploit the Blue Jays and/or spurn the Mets.
Instead, the extension was wrapped up neat and tidily -- and at a steep discount that Toronto, be it because of tax or currency conversion or travel issues, has rarely, if ever, received in the free-agent marketplace in the past.
It seems fair to say, then, that Dickey deserves credit with a huge assist in helping the Mets go about their business of rebuilding.
I understand the frustration of fans in Flushing who didn't want to see Dickey go and still can't conceive that a major-market team such as the Mets would get itself into such a precarious financial position as to only be able to offer a two-year, $20 million extension offer to the reigning Cy Young winner.
But with the financial realities at hand, general manager Sandy Alderson has no choice but to build this thing up in a prudent and proactive way. Dickey was a sizable trading chip that only grew larger as the winter pitching market took shape, and there is not an analyst out there who doesn't think the Mets got back a tremendous haul in this trade.
There are no guarantees, of course, but by the same logic, there are no guarantees that Dickey's knuckler will survive the effects of his arm's advanced age. This was a trade worth making.
As you might have seen, there was a report in the New York Post the days leading up to the deal that some members of the Mets had become frustrated with Dickey's newfound celebrity status in the wake of the release of his memoirs, that he was "appreciated but far from beloved" in the clubhouse. Also, the report added, there was disappointment in the front office over Dickey voicing his displeasure with the contract negotiations at a team holiday party that doubled as a benefit for Hurricane Sandy victims.
Clubhouse politics and the particulars of business practices being what they are, I suppose those concerns were justifiable, on some level.
But in the grand scheme, Dickey has revealed himself to be a thoughtful, accountable and overall honest person who willed himself to the pinnacle of his profession. He could have capitalized on his position for incredible financial gain.
Instead, Dickey gave a "hometown" discount to an organization he has no previous affiliation with, thereby assisting the team that so greatly benefited from his late discovery of big league brilliance.
Kudos to him, and good for them.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.