R.A. Dickey, Travis d'Arnaud

Blue Jays, Mets finalize seven-player R.A. Dickey trade

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R.A. Dickey passed his physical, clearing the final hurdle for his trade to Toronto. Here’s the official transaction:

Blue Jays acquire RHP R.A. Dickey, C Josh Thole and C Mike Nickeas from the Mets for C Travis d’Arnaud, C John Buck, RHP Noah Syndergaard and OF Wuilmer Becerra.

The final two names — those of Nickeas and Becerras — were just revealed today, and that part of the swap certainly favors the Mets. The soon-to-be 30-year-old Nickeas is strictly a third catcher; he’ll be called up to serve as a backup in the event of an injury to J.A. Arrencibia or Thole. Becerra has no track record to speak of — he played in just 11 games in his pro debut last season before getting drilled in the face and suffering a broken jaw — but he’s just 18 and he was a big signing out of Venezuela in 2011.

We also learned that there’s no cash in the deal, meaning that the Mets thought it was worth taking on Buck’s entire salary to get both d’Arnaud and Syndergaard in the deal. Buck was actually slated to be the most expensive player in the deal for 2013; he’s due $6 million, while Dickey was set to make $5 million. However, Dickey will be receiving a bit more now after agreeing to an extension as part of the deal.

That extension rips up Dickey’s previous deal, replacing it with a three-year, $29 million contract that includes a $12 million team option for 2016. It’s a bargain for a reigning Cy Young winner. For comparison’s sake, Zack Greinke will average $24.5 million per season as part of his six-year deal with the Dodgers.

Dickey will head a Toronto rotation also set to include Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow. Thole will likely serve as the knuckleballer’s personal catcher, with Arencibia handling the rest of the staff.

The Mets, obviously, get less help for 2013. While d’Arnaud may get a chance to compete for a starting job in spring training, expectations are that he’ll spend a couple of months in Triple-A to start the year, pushing back his free agency clock. The Mets will likely go with Buck as a starter and sign a cheap backup, hoping that Buck plays well enough to give himself a little trade value come June or July.

Still, if the Mets felt that had to trade Dickey (though they most certainly didn’t), this isn’t a bad return at all. D’Arnaud has All-Star potential and should be a solid regular at worst. Syndergaard, a 2010 supplemental first-round pick, is one of the game’s top 25 pitching prospects. He’ll open 2013 in high-A ball and perhaps contribute in 2014. Becerra is a lottery ticket.

The Jays are now the obvious favorites in the AL East, barring a surprise blitz from the Yankees. There are still some question marks in the bullpen, but the lineup could challenge for the AL lead in runs and the rotation is as talented as any in the league.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.