Mets trade Dickey, acquire hot catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud

With David Wright already being signed to a lengthy extension, the two big Mets dramas of the offseason have been brought to conclusion. On Monday morning it was announced that the Mets had agreed to a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays that would send R.A. Dickey and below average catcher Josh Thole up north in exchange for Jays top prospect Travis d’Arnaud (pronounced “Dar-No”), veteran backstop John Buck, and pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard.

Later in the day it was revealed that Mike Nickeas would also be going to the Jays while 18-year-old outfielder Wuilmer Becerra would become a member of the Mets.

Although I will miss having R.A. Dickey on the team like any other Mets fan, I’m pretty thrilled that general manager Sandy Alderson was able to swing a deal that has brought over an elite catching prospect as well as a potential mid-rotation starter. The Mets needed a catcher in the worst way, and d’Arnaud has a chance to be an above average starter at the position for years to come.

In his last two minor league seasons, d’Arnaud batted .311/.371/.542 at double-A New Hampshire in 2011 and .333/.380/.595 at triple-A Las Vegas in 2012. Yes, Las Vegas is a great environment for hitters, but d’Arnaud still profiles as a good defensive catcher who can hit for power, which is really all you can ask for in a catching prospect. Here’s what prospect expert John Sickels has to say about him:

He’s not perfect, but D’Arnaud is either the best catching prospect in baseball or the second-best behind Mike Zunino. Could use a bit more polish with his throwing and his plate discipline and immediate stardom is unlikely, but overall he’s the complete package. Don’t expect him to be Mike Piazza, but he should be a long-term solution.

So he’s not Superman, but remember, Mike Piazza wasn’t supposed to be Mike Piazza, either. If d’Arnaud is indeed a “long-term solution,” he’ll be worth the three years of Dickey the Mets sent away all by himself.

While d’Arnaud is the headline acquisition of the deal for the Mets, Sickels is also very bullish on Syndergaard, who he ranks between Zach Wheeler and Wilmer Flores on his list of top Mets prospects.

He’s ahead of where Wheeler was at age 20. Strong sinking fastball, good change-up, breaking stuff coming around, solid command, good body, good makeup, strong sabermetric profile. Just needs to stay healthy.

Last year in Single-A, Syndergaard struck out 122 batters and walked only 31 in 103.2 innings. However, that was only his first professional season with over 100 innings pitched, so you can see why there are durability concerns. If Syndergaard can hold up, Sickels makes it sound like he is a good bet to make an impact in future Mets rotations.

The other two pieces in the Dickey trade, Buck and Becerra, will likely impact the immediate present and the distant future, respectively. Buck was sent over to Toronto in the massive Jays/Marlins trade earlier this winter than saw the Jays acquire Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle. Buck is now 32 years old and last season he batted just .192/.297/.347, although that did include 12 home runs in 343 at-bats. That basically makes him sound like Rod Barajas, so hopefully he’ll go on an April home run binge and then disappear after he’s replaced by d’Arnaud in the middle of the 2013 season.

Becerra is a speedy outfielder who has played just 11 games of professional baseball. He would have more, but last season he was reportedly hit in the face with a fastball and suffered a broken jaw. According to Toby Hyde, Becerra was only listed as Tornto’s 30th best prospect last season, but he’s got lots of room to grow, so hopefully we’ll see him in Queens in five years or so when the Mets are making a World Series run.

By trading away Dickey for Buck and a trio of prospects, the Mets have more or less ensured that 2013 isn’t their year, but the future looks much brighter than it did a week ago.

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