Not too long ago, the New York Mets went after the top-tier free agents as aggressively as the Yankees and Red Sox. Recently, with the departures of Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and R.A. Dickey, they have become the team known for shipping their starts out of town.

The Dickey trade with Toronto was the most recent gut punch to Mets fans and came as a strong sign that the team isn’t planning on contending for at least three years. While it may hurt fans to watch the lovable Dickey head north across the border, the idea of not contending for the next three years should not come as a surprise.

The recent eight year, $138 million contract extension signed by franchise centerpiece David Wright is evidence that the Mets do plan on returning to contention within that time frame. But as the roster stands now, signing Dickey wont make but a dent in a would-be pennant chase against the Washington Nationals.

In return for Dickey, the Mets received Travis D’Arnaud, the top catching prospect in baseball and considered a future All-Star, and Noah Syndergaard, the Blue Jays’ top pitching prospect.

Without Dickey, the reigning Cy Young winner and a 20-win pitcher a season ago, the Mets can plan on a race against the Marlins for last place in the division in 2013. Winning 20 games in a season with a 2012 Mets offense is incredible, and in 2013 no Mets pitcher will be able to come close to that number of wins.

That said, the Mets didn’t trade Dickey to improve in 2013. They currently don’t have anything resembling an outfield and are still waiting for star prospect Zach Wheeler to be ready for the big leagues and for Matt Harvey to mature into a legit number two.

In the time it takes for Wheeler, Harvey, Syndergaard and D’Arnaud to mature into big leaguers that can have impact, outfielders Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Lucas Duda will hopefully be more consistent. If not, they will have ample time to shop around.

If Syndergaard and D’Arnaud pan out the way they are projected, they should fit in nicely with a roster that will also include Wright, Johan Santana, Wheeler, Harvey, Ike Davis, Nieuwenhuis and Duda.

That should be a young team that can contend with the division-rival Nationals in the near future when the now 38-year-old Dickey will likely be enjoying retirement.

While the Dickey trade seems like the most shocking of the recent departures of Mets star players and another case of penny-pinching by Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon, it will most certainly prove beneficial in the near future.

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