R.A. Dickey picked up his phone on Saturday, and New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told the NL Cy Young Award winner he had 72 hours to negotiate a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.
"OK, here we go. I probably am never going to be a Met again," Dickey remembered thinking. "I think I had a wash of just numbness come over me, really."
A day after he was traded to Toronto and finalized a $30 million, three-year contract with the Blue Jays, the 38-year-old knuckleballer talked about his exit from New York after three seasons that revived his career and made him a fan favorite. And he discussed the stimulation he will get from joining a contender.
"I think it's important for me to grieve leaving New York," he said. "I had a proverbial home there. I had a home among fans. I had a home in an organization. I had a lot of success there, and I think it's important for me to be sad about that for a moment before I move on to the next feeling."
And that next feeling is glee about joining the amped-up Blue Jays, who have added five All-Stars during the offseason, with Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Melky Cabrera preceding Dickey north.
"I can't tell you how excited I am to be part of an organization that's committed to winning and putting a product on the field that the fans can be excited about," Dickey said. "A lot of people say these things at the beginning of spring training and the beginning of all new things, but I think in this particular case that the reason it feels so good is because it's so true, and you don't feel like you're trying to convince yourself of the things that you're saying."
After going 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA and leading the NL with 230 strikeouts, Dickey was scheduled to earn $5.25 million next year with the Mets. At first they offered a deal adding $14 million over two years.
"I didn't necessarily take that first offer as a convincing slap in the face," he said.
New York later increased its offer to an additional $20 million over two years, still short what Dickey wanted. And the pace of talks was slower than one of his knuckleballs.
"I wasn't real sure why because we didn't hear any urgency on their part to try to bring this thing to a close one way or the other," Dickey said. "And that's when I kind of started trying to put two and two together."
Trade talks escalated after the Mets' Dec. 11 holiday party, when Dickey told reporters he likely would leave as a free agent after next season if he didn't have a new deal. In retrospect, he felt unprepared to speak with media that day.
"I must admit to you and repent the timing because I feel badly about using a time such as that to become emotional, and I want to apologize for that because that wasn't the venue necessarily to do that," he said.
So he's moving out of town in a deal that also sent catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas to the Blue Jays and brought the Mets top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud and veteran catcher John Buck, plus minor league right-hander Noah Syndergaard and outfielder Wuilmer Becerra. It was much like the Mets' 1977 trade that sent Tom Seaver to Cincinnati for Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Dan Norman and Pat Zachry.
Dickey wondered about an article that appeared last weekend in the New York Post questioning whether he was a good teammate on the Mets.
"People have sent me the articles about not being a good clubhouse guy and my response to that is go ask my teammates. Are there quotes around and has anybody come out saying R.A. is a bad teammate?" he said. "I don't know if 'smeared' is the right word. I think I just feel sad about it. ... It seemed beyond coincidence."