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The A’s case for R.A. Dickey

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Among the many stories around this year’s Winter Meetings, one of the strangest has to be the Mets tepid interest in signing R.A. Dickey to a longer-term contract. After all, the guy just won the Cy Young award!

Well, you see, first I apply gel THEN hairpray
Well, you see, first I apply gel THEN hairpray
USA Today Sports

I was inspired after I read Rany Jazayerli's take on why the Royals should make a play for him. In laying out his arguments, he mentions that R.A. Dickey is a homer-prone pitcher despite his other good peripherals: 24.8 K%, 5.8 BB%, 46.1 GB%, but 11.3 HR/FB%. Again, that's a great pitcher and that's why he won the award. But more than that: a guy who allows a lot of home runs (Rany correctly notes that knuckleball pitchers are historically prone to HRs, and that's certainly true) is a perfect fit for the Coliseum.

Last year, according to Statcorner, Citi Field had a 93/93 (LHB/RHB) park factor for HRs. Certainly, that's still a pitchers' park, but one place that rivals its home run suppression abilities is the good ol' O.co (again, from Statcorner): Oakland checks in with 72/89 park factor for HRs (LHB/RHB). So, let's say that he cuts his HRs allowed by 25% (Dickey allowed 24 HRs last year, so 18 doesn't seem entirely unrealistic considering the A's play in relatively HR-suppressed AL West stadiums) and his other peripherals remain relatively constant. Hey, that's still a hell of a pitcher! Now, put him in the A's rotation, for now, without knowing whether Brandon McCarthy will return:

Anderson

Dickey

Parker

Milone

Colon

Add in McCarthy to that, and I will go to battle against any team in baseball. Plus, if Anderson or McCarthy get hurt, Colon, A.J. Griffin, and Dan Straily are 6-7-8 starters that most teams would have in their rotation on Opening Day.

Indeed, this is not conventional. The A's are not keen on giving out long-term deals to free-agent pitchers, especially after the Esteban Loaiza debacle. But, this one makes a lot of sense. Here's why:

  • That he is 38 and only has 1 year remaining under Mets control means the A's won't have to part with a top-5 prospect. Might this cost the A's someone like Sonny Gray? Or even Brad Peacock? Sure. But let's be honest: there are questions about the former's ability to hack it in an MLB rotation, and have been since his drafting. The latter has had significant control issues. They are still top prospects, to be sure, but it's not like giving away A.J. Cole, or any of the recent draftees as PTBNLs.
  • A three year deal (plus maybe a club option) is more than enough to satisfy Dickey's needs to take care of his family, but still not break the A's bank. All that salary dumping has left the A's with significant payroll room, even by the A's low standards. According to Cots, they have approximately $40M in guaranteed contracts on the books, plus potential arbitration raises to Seth Smith and Brandon Moss, and the usual crop of players making the league minimum. Let's say, then, that the A's are projected for a $55M payroll this year. In 2011, they had $67M payroll. If Dickey was offered a 3/$33M deal, even, the A's would still be well under that figure, with room left to add either Stephen Drew, Hiroyuki Nakajima, or Yunel Escobar (ugh). If the A's upped the payroll even further, to maybe $75M they could even bring back McCarthy (recent reports indicate he may be open to signing a one-year deal to rebuild his value.) This would still be less than the $79M figure they pulled off in 2007 after their ALCS appearance.
  • The A's are unexpectedly competitive right now. The Angels are likely to be outbid by the Dodgers by Zack Greinke, and may not end up with Anibal Sanchez either. The Rangers have holes in their rotation, and may not end up with Josh Hamilton. Houston is hopeless for the next 2 years at least. Seattle is several good hitters away from being competitive. Yes, there is bound to be regression from the likes of Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick. On the other hand, the return of Scott Sizemore is imminent, Josh Donaldon has shown he is defensively an MLB-caliber third baseman is likely also a league-average bat, and most of second-half team is poised to return. This is the time to double-down and push for another division crown. Chances like this don't come around all the time, and the other teams will only be restocking for their own run.

What do you think of this idea? Discuss below. Feel free to also use this thread as the open thread for the day.