R.A. Dickey thanked the New York Mets and their fans for giving him "a chance" in a poignant letter published over the weekend.
The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays earlier this month along with Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas in exchange for John Buck, Travis d'Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard and Wuilmer Becerra.
Dickey then agreed to a two-year contract extension with Toronto worth $25 million that runs through to the end of the 2015 season with a club option for 2016.
And while the 38-year-old knuckleballer is excited about his new team, Dickey expressed his gratitude to the Mets and their fans in Saturday's New York Daily News.
"I never expected to be writing a farewell 'holiday card' to Mets fans," Dickey wrote. "I never expected to be doing anything but celebrating the joy of the season with my wife and kids and looking toward the spring, and the start of my fourth season with an organization that gave me maybe the greatest gift an athlete can get: A chance."
A former first-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers, Dickey struggled with consistency until he began toying with the knuckleball in 2005.
He perfected it last season with the Mets, posting a 20-6 record and a 2.73 earned-run average on the way to winning the NL Cy Young Award. The right-hander had hoped to sign a contract extension with New York and continue pitching in front of the fans he had grown to love, but the two sides could not reach an agreement.
"The trade was hard for me at first. (New York) is where my heart was, where I wanted to be, where I lived out a story of redemption and felt that every one of you shared it with me in some form or fashion," Dickey continued. "I loved pitching for you. I loved your passion, the way you embraced me from the start, and the way you seemed to appreciate the effort I was putting forth.
"Every time I'd walk off the mound after an outing, I'd look in your faces, the people behind the dugout, and felt as if all your energy and support was pouring right into me — even when I was lousy. It gives me chill bumps thinking about it even now."
Dickey, who is part of a bold remake of Toronto's roster that includes pitchers Mark Buerhle and Josh Johnson, shortstop Jose Reyes and outfielder Melky Cabrera, is looking forward to the coming season with the Blue Jays.
"As I move beyond the sadness over leaving here, I know I have a tremendous amount to look forward to. The Blue Jays may need name tags on the first day of spring training, but once we get acquainted, well, this team could be something," he wrote. "I appreciate the welcome I've already gotten from them, and what they're trying to build. We'll see how it all unfolds."