Pump the Brakes: Getting Rid of Matt Harvey Now Would Be Foolish

Pump the Brakes: Getting Rid of Matt Harvey Now Would Be Foolish

Matt Harvey’s career path has been extremely fascinating.  From the 7th overall draft pick in 2010 out of North Carolina, to his dazzling debut in 2012 where he allowed just three hits and struck out eleven in 5.1 innings against the Diamondbacks, Harvey seemed to be destined for the spotlight.  The 2013 season saw him dominate in the first half en route to receiving the starting nod for the All-Star Game at Citi Field.  Harvey tore his ulnar collateral ligament later in 2013 and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery, but he flourished upon his highly anticipated return in 2015.  Harvey finished the year with a 2.71 ERA and 188 strikeouts, reminding Major League Baseball that he was still the ace on the rise that the league saw two years earlier.  “The Dark Knight” welcomed the chance to pitch in first postseason.  He was crucial in helping the Mets reach their first World Series in sixteen years.  But the World Series did not start as Harvey and his teammates had hoped it would; they lost the first two games and faced elimination in Game 5.  Harvey embraced the chance to pitch with everything on the line and become an October hero.  It was a game that he wanted, and one that he needed.

For eight innings, Matt Harvey pitched with sheer precision and moxie that New Yorkers had come to love him for.  He was emotional and dominant, striking out nine batters and ending innings with fist-pumps that resonated with the frenetic crowd.  Harvey denied Terry Collins when his manager wanted to remove him from the game for closer Jeurys Familia.  When he ran out to the mound, Citi Field shook from the uproar of nearly 45,000 Mets fans chanting, “Harvey, Harvey!”

And then, Matt Harvey’s future seemingly ended along with the Mets’ magical postseason run.

Harvey failed to record an out in the ninth before being taken out of the game for Familia.  The Royals would tie the game mere minutes later, when Eric Hosmer made his mad dash to the plate once David Wright made a throw to first base on a grounder, and maybe more so when Lucas Duda hurled a ball to the backstop on the play that should have sent the series back to Kansas City.  Harvey may have lost this battle, but surely he would continue dominating and win the war.

Harvey hasn’t won the war, though.  Since that legendary game gone wrong in the World Series, Harvey has been a shell of his former self.  His 2016 season was marred by a 4.86 ERA and noticeably lower velocity on his fastball.  His BB/9 rose considerably.  After his poor start on July 4th, the New York Mets announced that Matt Harvey would need surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome in his shoulder.  The surgery was uncommon among big leaguers, and there was uncertainty that it would solve Harvey’s struggles.

So far in 2017, Harvey has not found that great pitcher that once carved up opposing lineups every fifth day.  His 5.25 ERA is by far the highest of his career, and he has nearly doubled his BB/9 since last year; it’s tripled since his stellar 2013 campaign.  His latest game saw him throw an 87 MPH fastball, something Harvey claims hasn’t happened since his freshman year of high school.  With his consistently poor on-field performances, along with his off-field issues that show his lack of maturity even at 28 years old, many Mets fans are calling for Sandy Alderson to trade the former all-star, simply to rid the team of his presence.  Sure, Harvey is a distraction, and odds are he will never return to his old form.  But trading Harvey now would be insensible, and it would be just the latest inexplicable move by the Mets’ front office.

Whispers of a Matt Harvey trade have been stirring since the winter of 2015.  With the Red Sox seeking pitching, the Mets were often discussed as a potential trade partner.  Boston had a plethora of young bats and high-upside prospects to dish out as they hoped to compete in 2016.  There was talk of a trade that would have sent Mookie Betts to New York for Harvey, but the idea never seemed to take structure.  The Mets may have even told teams Harvey would not be available, ultimately robbing them of the opportunity to find a franchise cornerstone that could play everyday.

If there was ever a time to trade Harvey, that was it.  His value is essentially non-existent now, although a team may gamble on him at a low cost.  The other morning, I was listening to Evan Roberts and Joe Beningo on WFAN, the home for New York sports talk radio.  The idea of trading Matt Harvey to the Cubs for Ian Happ came up.  About thirty minutes later, someone suggested trying to trade Harvey across town to the Yankees for outfielder Aaron Hicks.

Realistically, neither of these trades will ever happen.  Hicks is an all-star, and Happ probably will play in a few midsummer classics in the future.  Throw in the fact that the Cubs and Yankees are both in position to compete now, and both trades look like complete jokes.  Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman would never make such a ludicrous deal for a starter coming off of surgery with no signs of returning to greatness.  The fact is that Matt Harvey is worthless to the baseball world right now.  Teams know that the Mets want to dump him, decreasing his potential value on the trade market even more.  But his value may not be lost forever.

Matt Harvey is probably miserable compared to a few years ago, especially considering he could have signed a lucrative extension to stay in New York years ago.  Harvey now is just under eighteen months away from becoming a free agent, where he would be lucky to find a suitor willing to pay a third of what the Mets offered him.  Harvey has one shot left to regain that value he lost, and that shot is the 2018 season.  The free agent to-be will need to put together a respectable season in his walk-year in order to have any chance at making decent money.  If Harvey can flash his old-self next year, the Mets can then turn him around for something worthwhile, rather than just trade him for a bag of balls now.

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