New York Mets
No matter how the matter resolves itself, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is in for a big raise from the $572,865 he earned last season. But Dickey still believes agreeing to a multi-year deal with the Mets is possible.
The 36-year-old Dickey, who is poised to be a free agent next season assuming he spends the bulk of this year in the majors, traded arbitration figures with the Mets on Tuesday. He filed for $4.7 million, with the team countering at $3.35 million.
“Just out of respect for the process, I can’t really comment on it right this second. But I still am hopeful for it,” Dickey said about signing a multi-year deal. “It’s the first time that I’ve ever been through it, and it’s the way I want to treat it right now.”
Even if the sides settle on a one-year deal between the figures exchanged -- or he goes to arbitration next month in Florida, loses and will make $3.35 million in 2011 -- Dickey can't complain.
“The great thing about that is there’s no bad news really,” Dickey said. “It’s very validating. That’s a good way to put it. And I’m very thankful for it.”
After all, the unheralded Dickey came to Mets camp last year on a minor league deal and was one of the first players sent out of big league camp. He had to shave to comport with the standard on the minor league side, which were meant for players 15 years younger.
“I was the first. That’s all right,” Dickey clarified about where he ranked in cuts from last year's camp. “I was the first.”
Dickey ultimately went 11-9 with a 2.84 ERA in 27 appearances (26 starts) for the Mets last season. Now, he can exhale in spring training ever so slightly -- not having to worry about whether he will make the team.
“Going into spring training the last 15 years of my career, I’ve had to go in full bore, ready to open eyes, and try to make a team. Or not make a team,” Dickey said. “This year I’ll be able to go in and work on my craft. And that’s pretty neat to be able to do that. I’ve never had the opportunity to do that.”
What does Dickey need to work on? He identified improving his success against right-handed batters -- particularly those who are switch-hitters and nonetheless choose to face him from the right side -- is one area to address. Overall, right-handed hitters had a .269 batting average against Dickey last season. Lefties hit .226.
"Whether it’s learning how to make my knuckleball break certain directions a little bit more – or implement other bullets in the gun as far as front-door cutters or sinkers in, whatever it is, there are certain right-handed hitters within the division especially I have an idea about, and have had an idea for months now about how I need to work differently," Dickey said. "I think I can improve in that area.”
Dickey often spends his offseasons doing missionary work, particularly in Cuba, while bringing medical supplies and baseball equipment. He's needed to scale back that activity this winter to be with his wife, Anne.
“Usually I’ll go on maybe one or two trips overseas a year. Not really overseas -- down south to Cuba,” Dickey said. “… This year my wife has been pregnant, and we’re going to deliver in late March. And there haven’t been complications, but it hasn’t exactly been an easy pregnancy. So I’ve had to stay close to home more so than I would have otherwise. But the group that I work with and through has gone over there a few times this offseason. The stuff we were able to donate at the end of the season and send over there made a huge difference and was really neat.”
Dickey, an English major at the University of Tennessee, is an avid reader. But, he acknowledged Wednesday, he may be out of his league in the scholarly department in the rotation if Princeton's Chris Young and Duke's Chris Capuano do in fact join him as starting pitchers.
“I told somebody before: Those guys might be a little bit out of my league,” Dickey said. “They’re real left-side-of-the-brain guys. I’m not good with numbers and formulas and hypotenuse.”
As for his goals for 2011, Dickey added: “The key word for me this year is just going to be consistency, and to continue to be trustworthy and dependable. I think that’s the value I can lend to this team -- to be a 200-plus inning pitcher -- and you don’t have to worry every fifth day about me going out and tanking. I think you’re going to have your clunkers. Everybody does. But, at the same time, my home is that last year is not the anomaly. Everybody year I’ve been throwing this pitch I’ve gotten a little bit better, and you can turn around the back of the baseball card and see that. So my hope is that is what this can produce.”