With the end of the regular season approaching, right-hander R.A. Dickey realizes that the start he made Friday could be his last with the Blue Jays, he told Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. The knuckleballer threw five shutout innings against the Angels, yielding seven hits and one walk against five strikeouts in a 5-0 victory.
“When I came out I kind of ruminated over what that might be because there’s a chance that could be my last start as a Blue Jay. That’s somewhat emotional,” Dickey said. “But I have one singular goal, and I’ve made no secret about what that is: I just want to be on a championship ball club. That’s all I care about.”
At 81-67, The Blue Jays have a three-game cushion in the American League wild-card race. If they hold on and make the playoffs, Dickey is unlikely to factor into their October rotation plans. In the meantime, left-hander Francisco Liriano is expected to start the two regular-season games in which Toronto hasn’t officially scheduled a starter, writes Davidi. With that in mind, Dickey’s tenure as a Jays starter could indeed be over.
Looking beyond this season, Dickey is set to hit the free agent market as a 42-year-old during the winter. Dickey is unsure if he’ll pitch in 2017, however. While he has “never felt better” physically and believes he’s still capable of contributing, whether Dickey continues his career is “going to be a family decision.”
Dickey’s days as a front-line starter are long gone, but the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner with the Mets has at least shown the ability to chew up innings this year. Dickey has tossed 169 1/3 frames, and his 4.46 ERA isn’t significantly worse than the AL league-average mark of 4.25. Entering 2016, he went five straight campaigns with 200-plus innings and posted a sub-4.00 ERA in each of the previous two years.
In the aggregate, Dickey has been much closer to average than great since Toronto surrendered a haul to the Mets to acquire him after the 2012 season. The Jays traded now-ace Noah Syndergaard and catcher Travis d’Arnaud in the package for Dickey, who has pitched to an unspectacular 4.05 ERA in 824 innings with the fifth major league team of his unique career. Dickey is cognizant of what Toronto gave up for him, of course.
“It’s been a real balancing act for me to walk the line between what people might expect of me because of past successes and what I was traded for,” he said.
Before the Jays and now-former general manager Alex Anthopoulos landed him, Dickey agreed to an extension featuring $30MM in guaranteed money after the Jays. Dickey reminisced on that decision, telling Davidi, “When I was approached by Alex about an extension and the only way I was going to be a Blue Jay was if I were to agree to that extension, I had a little bit of time to call around and talk to people about the AL East and being a Blue Jay. I’ll tell you, to a person, everyone said don’t do it, and I polled five or six people. They said you don’t want to go to the American League East, you don’t want to pitch in Toronto, it’s a tough place to pitch, it’s turf, you’re playing in smaller parks, etc. And that just made it more of a challenge for me.”
Despite the fact that Toronto acquired him via trade, then, Dickey did have a say in whether to join the team.
“I always felt like I got to choose to be a Blue Jay and that meant a lot to me,” he said.
In the event Dickey pitches next year, whether with the Blue Jays or someone else, odds are he won’t approach his current $12MM salary in 2017. For their part, the Jays already have starters Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada and Liriano under contract for next season, so it doesn’t appear there will be room for Dickey to return to Toronto as a full-time rotation option.