R.A. Dickey and his nasty knuckleball are headed north of the border.
After weeks of speculation and then a weekend spent ironing out the last few details, the New York Mets finally traded the NL Cy Young Award winner to the Toronto Blue Jays in a seven-player swap Monday.
"I can't tell you how excited I am to be part of an organization that's committed to winning and putting a product on the field that the fans can be excited about," Dickey said Tuesday. "A lot of people say these things at the beginning of spring training and the beginning of all new things, but I think in this particular case that the reason it feels so good is because it's so true, and you don't feel like you're tying to convince yourself of the things that you're saying."
Toronto acquired the 38-year-old Dickey and catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. The Mets got top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud and veteran catcher John Buck, plus minor league right-hander Noah Syndergaard and outfielder Wuilmer Becerra.
Earlier in the day, Dickey and the busy Blue Jays agreed to a new contract adding $25 million over two years clearing the way for New York to send him to a team that's spending a lot of money trying to join baseball's elite.
General manager Sandy Alderson said the Mets didn't completely decide to trade Dickey until they saw the final package that Toronto offered.
"This was a complicated deal," Alderson said on a conference call.
Dickey was already signed for $5.25 million next year, including a $250,000 escalator. His new contract drops next year's salary to $5 million, adds $12 million salaries for both 2014 and 2015, and includes a $12 million club option for 2016 with a $1 million buyout.
Dickey said New York's initial offer would have added $14 million over two years and the Mets increased it to $20 million.
"It's think it's important for me to grieve leaving New York," he said. "I had proverbial home there. I had a home among fans. I had a home in an organization. I had a lot of success there, and I think it's important for me to be sad about that for a moment before I move on to the next feeling."
Toronto has now acquired All-Stars Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera and Dickey since the season ended.
"We're just so close to contention," Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said. "It's not just about one season. This allows us to put what we feel is a contending team together for an extended run, for a three- to five-year period."
Dickey became the fourth pitcher to win the Cy Young and be traded before the next season, joining David Cone, Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens.
Alderson said the Mets' preference going into the offseason was to sign Dickey to a multiyear deal. But as the winter meetings approached in early December, Alderson said Dickey's value "in a possible trade was also sky-rocketing. At some point, those lines crossed."
Several teams made runs at a deal for Dickey, with Texas and the Los Angeles Angels among those in the mix. Alderson said while some clubs popped in and out of trade talks, Toronto's interest remained steady.
The Blue Jays have missed the playoffs since winning their second straight World Series crown in 1993, and have boldly moved to reshape a team that went 73-89 last season in the rugged AL East.
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Dickey was 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA last season, capping his rapid rise from the majors' scrap heap to an ace pitcher. He did it by perfecting a way to throw his floater faster than previous knuckleballers, and tossing it with exceptional control.
"It was an extraordinary privilege for us to be part of his career," Alderson said. "The final chapter has not been written."
Dickey joins a stellar Toronto rotation that includes Johnson, Buehrle and returning starters Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow.
"We clearly are convinced this can be a front-line starter for us," Anthopoulos said. "I don't think he gets the credit or the respect he deserves because of his age, and because of what he does throw. And I understand because it's so rare.
"But there's so much overwhelming data and evidence that points to him continuing to have this success."
Thole gives the Blue Jays a catcher who is familiar with handling Dickey's knuckleball, and Anthopoulos said that relationship was a key to the deal.
"R.A. is too important to our chances to take a chance and have a tryout camp to see if someone can catch him," he said.
Despite a big spot in the rotation to fill minus Dickey, Alderson said the Mets were not giving up on next season.
"We certainly are not punting on 2013," he said.
Alderson called d'Arnaud, who turns 24 in February, the top catching prospect in the minors and predicted he could contribute on the major league level next year. He hit .333 at Triple-A Las Vegas with 16 homers and 52 RBIs before tearing a knee ligament trying to break up a double play in June.
Popular with Mets fans, Dickey perturbed team management when he spoke about his contract situation last week during a club event at Citi Field for children displaced from their schools by Superstorm Sandy.
Dickey said he enjoyed playing for the Mets and added it would be "disappointing" if he went through his option year without a new deal and became a free agent.
"If that's the decision that they make, I feel like it would be unfortunate because it probably is going to mean that I'm not going to be back," Dickey said then. "And that would be sad."
Buck was an All-Star with Toronto in 2010. The 32-year-old hit .192 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs for Miami last season, then was part of the blockbuster trade between the Marlins and Blue Jays.
The 20-year-old Syndergaard went 8-5 with a 2.60 ERA for Class-A Lansing. The 18-year-old Becerra hit .250 with four RBIs in 11 games in the rookie Gulf Coast League.
Thole, 26, hit .234 with one homer and 21 RBIs in 104 games this year. The 29-year-old Nickeas split last season between the Mets and Triple-A Buffalo. He batted .174 with one homer and 13 RBIs for New York.
Press; By BEN WALKER]
AP Sports Writers Ronald
Blum and Mike Fitzpatrick contributed to this report.
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