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The Mets have already won the (R.A. Dickey trade) WAR

Toronto may have expected to concede long-term value in exchange for short-term wins, but the Mets' haul for R.A. Dickey has already out-produced the Blue Jays' return.

Even in the first season following the blockbuster, the Mets' returned produced more fWAR than the Blue Jays'.
Even in the first season following the blockbuster, the Mets' returned produced more fWAR than the Blue Jays'.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

On December 17th, 2012, the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets made official a blockbuster trade involving the reigning NL Cy Young winner and two consensus top 30 prospects. The Mets sent thirty-eight year old knuckle ball ace R.A. Dickey to Toronto, along with backup catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. The deal involved a two-year, $25 million extension for Dickey beyond his immediate one-year, $5 million contract.

Heading to Flushing were four players: top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud, similarly elite pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard, major league backup catcher John Buck, and minor league outfielder Wuilmer Becerra.

The trade was surprising in some ways because of Dickey's age and unusual profile - despite his recent performance, projection was presumably more difficult to figure than for a typical Cy Young winner. The quality of the prospect return was larger than probably expected, and some questioned whether the same players could have returned an ace with a less risky profile.

With the prominence of both the Mets and the Blue Jays during the 2015 post season, several pieces have been written suggesting that the Mets appear to have won the trade in the face of contributions from Syndergaard and d'Arnaud during the Mets' run to the World Series.

Certainly, when boiling the trade down to 41 year old Dickey and his $12 million option versus d'Arnaud and Syndergaard with four and five remaining seasons of team control, respectively, it seems fairly secure that the Mets will accrue more value from this point forward than the Blue Jays.

What might be surprising, however, is that the Mets have won this trade already. Not based on future projection, current post-season performance, or even salary spent. They've won it in banked, on-field value, by a substantial margin.

R.A. Dickey has not been bad since joining Toronto - he's likely had one of the best pitching careers after age 35 in the history of baseball. In three seasons, he's thrown the fifth-most innings of any pitcher (654.2 IP) while being worth 5.4 fWAR. FanGraphs rates his production's dollar value as worth $41.8 million in free agency over that stretch, well over the $29 million he's been paid so far.

The problem is that Dickey has obviously not been an ace in Toronto like he was in New York, and both Syndergaard and d'Arnaud have emerged in 2015. An additionally underrated aspect of this trade is how much the Mets gained from secondary pieces, to the point that they shifted the math (at least, using FanGraphs metrics*) enough that the Mets and Blue Jays essentially broke even in year ONE after the deal.

2013 Returns

fWAR Salary (M) FA Value (M) Surplus (M)
R.A. Dickey 1.7 $5.00 $12.40 $7.40
Josh Thole -0.4 $1.25 -$3.20 -$4.45
John Buck 1.5 $6.00 $10.90 $4.90
Travis d'Arnaud -0.2 $0.50 -$1.40 -$1.90
Blue Jays 1.3 $6.25 $9.20 $2.95
Mets 1.3 $6.50 $9.50 $3.00

John Buck had an strong year for the Mets in 2013, and proved additionally useful as the second piece in the August 2013 trade sending he and Marlon Byrd to the Pirates for Dilson Herrera and Vic Black. It's probably unscientific, but one way to loosely calculate that proportion may be Buck's percentage of the total surplus value the Pirates were acquiring in that trade.

During his 2013 stint with the Mets, Buck was worth roughly $10.9 million free agent dollars, while being paid roughly two-thirds of his $6 million salary ($4 million). Byrd was worth $25.9 million in value, while only earning two-thirds of his $700 thousand ($470 thousand) as a Spring Training invitee.

In total, John Buck was probably worth roughly 20% of the total $36.8 million of surplus value sent to the Pirates. That's likely a gross over-simplification, but saying Buck was worth one-fifth of Herrera and Black is a guesstimate that doesn't sound unreasonable.

2014 Returns (Cumulative)

fWAR Salary (M) FA Value (M) Surplus (M)
R.A. Dickey 3.4 $17.00 $25.40 $8.40
Josh Thole -0.4 $2.50 -$3.10 -$5.60
John Buck 1.5 $6.00 $10.90 $4.90
Travis d'Arnaud 1.1 $1.00 $8.50 $7.50
Blue Jays 3.0 $19.50 $22.30 $2.80
Mets 2.6 $7.00 $19.40 $12.40

Travis d'Arnaud's strong, injury-shortened rookie season impacted the win column slightly less than Dickey's fourth straight 200 inning campaign, and the Blue Jays appear to have earned a slight on-field edge. However, at this point the Mets are well-ahead in the surplus value column, essentially saying they've spent their money more efficiently.

At this point, tenths of a win are being parsed to say the Blue Jays have an edge, when really, it should be clear that the trade didn't work as intended, and they didn't see large short-term value. They hoped to bank a lot of value in the first years, to make it easier to stomach the prospects they would later watch succeed. Here, they're basically even, and Noah Syndergaard hasn't even debuted.

2015 Returns (Cumulative)

fWAR Salary (M) FA Value (M) Surplus (M)
R.A. Dickey 5.5 $29.00 $41.80 $12.80
Josh Thole -0.7 $4.25 -$5.40 -$9.65
John Buck 1.5 $6.00 $10.90 $4.90
Travis d'Arnaud 3.4 $1.50 $27.10 $25.60
Noah Syndergaard 3.1 $0.50 $24.70 $24.20
Blue Jays 4.8 $33.25 $36.40 $3.15
Mets 8.0 $8.00 $62.70 $54.70

So, yeah. d'Arnaud and Syndergaard are still pre-arbitration-eligible players, and the Blue Jays are at the point of Dickey's team option. What at the time looked like selling a bit high on a pitcher has turned into an estimated $51.55 million surplus value advantage for the Mets, only three seasons in.

New York has two young cornerstones as cost-controlled contracts for several more seasons, and both are likely to be more valuable in the coming years. This is also before noting that Wuilmer Becerra is currently the Mets' 12th ranked prospect by MLB.com, and that roughly a fifth of Vic Black and Dilson Herrera's future value on the Mets could be awarded to this trade as well.

With how quickly the focus of this deal has turned around, maybe people will stop calling it the R.A. Dickey trade, and start calling it the Noah Syndergaard-Travis d'Arnaud deal.

* The two most popular value metrics, FanGraphs WAR and Baseball Reference WAR, disagree on the production of players involved in this trade. I prefer fWAR and have used it in all of my posts, as I believe it is a more accurate representation of a player's contributions.

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Spencer Bingol is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @SpencerBingol.