NOVEMBER 3: Toronto has exercised its options over Dickey, Bautista, and Encarnacion, as expected, per a club announcement. The team has declined its option on infielder Maicer Izturis, paying him a $1MM buyout rather than a $3MM salary. Izturis, 35, missed the entire season due to injury.
OCTOBER 28: The Blue Jays will exercise their $12MM club option on right-hander R.A. Dickey for the 2016 season, sources tell Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman also adds that Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will have their respective $14MM and $10MM club options exercised, though those two options were foregone conclusions. Dickey’s situation was a bit less certain, though still more or less expected, especially in light of Alex Anthopoulos’ comment that Dickey had put himself in a good position for the option to be picked up (via Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, on Twitter).
Dickey, who turns 41 years old tomorrow, logged more than 200 innings for the fifth consecutive season and posted a 3.91 ERA with 5.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a 41.9 percent ground-ball rate in his 214 1/3 frames this year. He came under criticism from some Jays fans after an ugly final start in the postseason — five runs (four earned) in just 1 2/3 innings — but Dickey was outstanding over the final four months of the regular season.
After limping out of the gates and posting a 5.77 ERA through the end of May, Dickey righted the ship and worked to a 3.11 ERA over his final 23 starts/150 innings. He had what appears on the surface to be some BABIP help over that stretch (.261), but Dickey has maintained a well-below-average BABIP mark over the past few seasons and routinely been able to outperform metrics such as FIP, xFIP and SIERA as a result.
Dickey’s option came with a $1MM buyout, meaning that this essentially boiled down to an $11MM decision on the knuckleballer. While he’s yet to replicate the production he delivered in his outstanding National League Cy Young Award season, steady innings have value. Dickey has averaged 218 innings per season in Toronto and totaled a park-adjusted ERA of 100 — exactly the league average — since coming to Toronto, which is worth $11MM in today’s market.
Given the uncertainty in the Blue Jays’ rotation picture — David Price, Marco Estrada and Mark Buehrle could all be lost to free agency (or, in Buehrle’s case, retirement) — retaining Dickey for a net total of $11MM gives Toronto some much needed stability. He’ll be joined in the rotation by rising star Marcus Stroman and could also see 2015 relievers Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna by his side, depending on the team’s offseason pitching acquisitions. Recently, the Toronto Star’s Richard Griffin wrote about Dickey’s importance to the 2016 rotation.
As for Bautista and Encarnacion, though each is into his mid-30s (Bautista is 35, and Encarnacion will be 33 in January), each is still among the game’s premier sluggers. Bautista reached the 40-homer plateau for the third time in 2015 and led the American League with 110 walks, whereas Encarnacion’s 39 homers gave him a fourth straight season with 34 or more long balls. Since his 2012 breakout, Encarnacion has a collective OPS+ of 150. Each right-handed slugger will pair with the likes of Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki to hit in the heart of what will again be an incredibly formidable Toronto lineup in 2016.