Sources close to Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News tell her that the Mets have talked to “at least two teams” about trading former All-Star Matt Harvey this winter. This seems to be part of a larger strategy that Ackert describes as “dipping into their strength of starting pitchers to address their needs heading into the 2018 season.”
One of Ackert’s sources says that the Mets want to “flip Harvey for a reliever”, and are more interested in moving him than fellow Amazin starters Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo. The report aligns with quotes from GM Sandy Alderson, who told reporters that no player on the roster is untouchable (though in contradiction, the organization has seemingly made it clear that starters Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are not on the table).
The thought of trading the right-handed Harvey for a relief pitcher would have seemed ludicrous as recently as 2015. After missing the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery, Harvey seemingly made a full recovery; he pitched to a sparkling 2.71 ERA across 189 1/3 innings, including a fantastic month of August during which he allowed just one earned run spanning four starts. His performance helped the Mets to a 90-72 record en route to their first NL East pennant since 2006.
Unfortunately, Harvey’s numbers plummeted steeply in 2016. The one-time ace experienced a slight drop in velocity (along with some terrible batted ball fortune), which led to a 4-10 record and a 4.86 ERA prior to season-ending surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. His velocity and strikeout rate dropped off even further in 2017, leading to horrific peripherals: 6.51 K/9, 4.56 BB/9, and a 6.39 FIP that ranked third-worst among pitchers who started at least 15 games.
The Dark Knight’s fall from grace has been widely publicized. His trade value, of course, is at an all-time low; Harvey performed at nearly a full win below replacement level last season, carries significant injury risk, and projects to earn a $5.9MM salary in his final year of arbitration. Though he carries significant upside, it’s fair to wonder how likely Harvey is to revert back to his 2015 form. After failing to reach 100 innings in each of the past two seasons, teams are likely to be skeptical over Harvey’s bounce-back potential.
Still, it’s not difficult to imagine an MLB club taking a flyer on Harvey at the price of an “impact reliever.” The Yankees and Brewers, for example, seem to have reasonable bullpen depth and a need in the rotation; either of them could feasibly flip a relief arm for the chance to play roulette with the former six-WAR player. It’s also important to note that the Mets’ wish list isn’t limited to bullpen help. The club is also looking to add a second baseman, along with a part-time first baseman or outfielder (link).
While Harvey has performed poorly in recent years, it’s worth noting that he’ll enter the 2018 season at just under 29 years of age. Regardless of whether he’s traded or not, his storyline headed into 2018 will be captivating and suspenseful.