According to multiple reports out of the Nashville winter meetings, the Mets met with eight different teams on Monday to discuss possible trades for R.A. Dickey. The 38-year-old knuckleballer, who was awarded the NL Cy Young award last month, will make $5 million in 2013 via an already-exercised club option, but before general manager Sandy Alderson signs him to a more lucrative extension — said to be slightly less than Jake Peavy's two-year, $29 million deal, though the possibility of a third year has been rumored — the team wants to gauge his trade value. Alderson is said to be seeking "a difference maker," regardless of position, in a package that includes at least one top prospect.
The Nationals were one of the eight teams reportedly interested in Dickey, but the combination of their all-but complete signing of free agent Dan Haren, their recent trade of 2011 first-round draft pick Alex Meyer to Minnesota for Denard Span and their occupation of the NL East alongside the Mets almost certainly eliminates them from the competition. Here's a quick look at some of the potential trade targets on the other seven teams. Many of these are well-regarded prospects who aren't necessarily available and who may have already have been declared off-limits in discussion.
The Diamondbacks have a wealth of young pitching prospects, perhaps the best collection of them in the game. Twenty-one-year-old righty Trevor Bauer and 21-year-old lefty Tyler Skaggs both debuted with the big club last year, and while both were lit up due to control problems (a 6.06 ERA for Bauer in 16 1/3 innings, a 5.83 mark for Skaggs in 29 1/3 innings), it's far too early to write off either.
Bauer, the No. 3 pick of the 2011 draft, is best known for his unorthodox delivery and training methods including an extreme long-toss regimen in which he throws from foul line to foul line at distances of more than 300 feet. His methods have helped him overcome a disadvantage in size (6-foot-1, 185 pounds), but he's said to have raised some hackles within the organization over his willingness to adapt and his problems communicating with catcher Miguel Montero during his four-start stint. Skaggs, a 6-foot-3, 195 pounder, was a supplemental first-round pick by the Angels in 2009, and a key piece for the Diamondbacks when they traded Haren to the Angels in mid-2010.
Further down in the minors, the team also has 20-year-old righty Archie Bradley, the seventh pick of the 2011 draft. With the build of a traditional power pitcher (6-foot-4, 225 pounds), he has the highest upside of the three and is viewed as an ace in the making, but he hasn't pitched above Low-A. Arizona could also offer the Mets 25-year-old Wade Miley, a proven midrotation starter with five years of club control who just finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting after posting a 3.33 ERA and 3.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The O's have an ace of the making of their own in Dylan Bundy, a 20-year-old righty who was the fourth pick of the 2011 draft, and who made two brief appearances for Baltimore in September. Though just 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, he boasts high-90s heat as well as a curve and a changeup that are already plus-pitches. He's almost certainly not available, and likewise for shortstop Manny Machado, the third pick of the 2010 draft, who hit .262/.294/.445 in 51 games for the Orioles after converting on the fly to third base to fill Baltimore's need down the stretch.
After those two, the next prospect on the Orioles' list is 21-year-old infielder Jonathan Schoop, a strong-armed athlete who could wind up at second base, shortstop or third base; he's coming off a year in which he hit just .245/.324/.386 with 14 homers at Double-A, an advanced level of competition for a 20-year-old.
Kevin Gausman, the fourth pick of the 2012 draft out of LSU, is a 6-foot-4, 185 pound righty with high 90s heat who's seen as a potential ace, but he's got a longer way to go, and he actually can't be traded until a year after he signed with the Orioles, which wouldn't be until mid-July. In all, this looks like a tough fit.
Boston Red Sox
As the team for whom knuckleballer Tim Wakefield pitched for 17 years, the Sox have more familiarity with knuckleballers — especially aging ones — than most, and they could certainly use the rotation help via Dickey. The Mets reportedly asked the Sox for 20-year-old shortstop Xander Boegarts as well as 22-year-old centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., the team's two top prospects according to Baseball Prospectus. Boegarts, a non-drafted free agent from Aruba, tore up High-A and Double-A in 2012 and is viewed as an All-Star caliber player down the road, while Bradley, a 2011 supplemental first-round pick, made a strong showing in High-A and Double-A during his first full professional season. A return of two future up-the-middle stars is far more than the Mets are likely to receive, though, and given the shape of the Boston organization at the moment, the Sox may be unwilling to part with even one.
Kansas City Royals
The obvious target on the Royals — the one for whom the Mets have clearly expressed interest — is Wil Myers, a 21-year-old catcher-turned-rightfielder who won Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year honors in 2012 for a season in which he hit .314/.387/.600 with 37 homers for the Royals' Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. Like the Mets and Dickey, the Royals have been dangling Myers as a trade candidate, though they're not planning to follow through unless they are completely happy with their return — in this case a frontline starting pitcher who can lead a rebuilt rotation.
Though he's clearly at the top of his game now, Dickey's age and unique profile may work against him in such a potential trade pairing. In terms of alternatives, neither Mike Moustakas, a third baseman who would have to switch positions given David Wright's extension, nor Eric Hosmer, a first baseman coming off a terrible season, make much sense, but one that could fit would be catcher Salvador Perez. The 22-year-old hit .301/.328/.471 in 305 plate appearances after missing the first two and a half months of the season due to knee surgery; he's signed to a very club-friendly five-year, $7 million deal that runs through 2016 and includes very affordable options for 2017-2019 as well. The Mets and Royals aren't known to have discussed Perez, but he would be a significant building block for the future.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Given their pursuit of Zack Greinke, the Dodgers could certainly afford Dickey's extension as an alternative, but the question is whether the prospects they could offer are good enough for the Mets. Zach Lee, the team's 2010 first-round pick, is a 6-foot-4 righty who was signed away from a commitment to quarterback at LSU; the Dodgers insisted upon holding onto him during their flurry of deals this past summer, but by now the scouting consensus is that he's more likely a midrotation starter than an ace barring a breakthrough in his arsenal (91-94 mph sinking fastball, potential plus-slider, curve and a changeup with the potential to be average).
Further down the system is centerfielder Joc Pederson, a 20-year-old 2010 pick whose five tools all have the potential to be average or better; he batted .313/.396/.516 for the team's High-A affiliate at hitter-friendly Rancho Cucamonga. With more than $350 million tied up through 2018 in outfielders Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Cuban defector Yasiel Puig, Pederson is likely to be on the move before he can crack the Dodgers outfield, but he may be too far off for the Mets' tastes.
Dickey was the Rangers' first-round draft pick back in 1996, and he pitched for them from 2001-2006, long before he turned to the knuckleball. Texas certainly has the players to satisfy the Mets' desire for a return, but isn't likely to part with 19-year-old shortstop Jurickson Profar, who is regarded as the top position player prospect in the minors. While he's blocked by Elvis Andrus, the Rangers are more likely to deal the incumbent — perhaps in a trade for Arizona's Justin Upton — than his potential replacement. Texas also has a good prospect in slugging 24-year-old third baseman Mike Olt (.288/.398/.579 with 28 homers at Double-A), who's blocked by Adrian Beltre, but he'd have to switch positions in New York given Wright's presence, which lessens his value. This doesn't look like an easy fit.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have been the winter's busiest team thus far, signing free agents Melky Cabrera and Maicer Izturis and pulling off a blockbuster with the Marlins. A deal for Dickey would further legitimize their bid for contention in the AL East, and they have a surplus of young catchers, an area where Alderson is prioritizing. Incumbent starter J.P. Arencibia is a 26-year-old with two-plus season of major league experience; he's coming off a year in which he hit .233/.275/.435 with 18 homers. He's not enough to be the centerpiece of a deal, but 23-year-old Travis D'Arnaud might be. D'Arnaud hit .333/.380/.595 with 16 homers in 303 plate appearances at hitter-friendly Las Vegas but he didn't play after June 25 due to a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee; he didn't undergo surgery but his season did end early. The Blue Jays are unlikely to deal D'Arnaud, but they may be more willing to part with 22-year-old centerfielder Anthony Gose, who entered last year ranked 29th on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list and who hit .223/.303/.319 in 189 PA after being recalled in mid-July. That performance obviously isn't going to get it done, but scouts are high on his potential power/speed combination and the rest of his tools. Defensively, he's considered a better centerfielder than incumbent Colby Rasmus, and the Mets are known to be looking for outfielders.