Mets manager Mickey Callaway has told reporters that the club plans to move longtime starter and former ace Matt Harvey to the bullpen (h/t Mike Puma of the New York Post). He’ll reportedly be available as a reliever beginning on Tuesday.
Obviously, the move is by no means permanent. Anthony DiComo of MLB.com shared a video tweet of Callaway discussing the topic. “I think he’s motivated to go out there and show everyone that he can start again at some point,” he told reporters. “And Dave and I are going to take the approach that we’re gonna do everything we can to help him do that.”
It’s worth noting right off the bat that this isn’t just a fluff statement. As Callaway himself says in the video (which is well worth watching in its entirety), he’s seen pitchers go to the bullpen and “come out of it better than they were before.” Most notably, Callaway oversaw the transition of talented Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco from a starter role to the bullpen and back to the rotation. That transition period ultimately jumpstarted Carrasco’s career, and was no doubt a significant contributing factor in his development into a pitcher who ranks seventh in MLB in fWAR since the start of the 2015 season. Callaway was also present for fellow Cleveland hurler Mike Clevinger’s transition to the bullpen and back, so it’s perfectly fair to think this may just be a temporary measure to help Harvey work on things with the ultimate plan of converting him back to a hopefully improved starting pitcher.
Regardless of any of that, it certainly isn’t a pleasing development for the 29-year-old Harvey (he certainly didn’t seem happy in this video). Just yesterday, he candidly told reporters that he sees himself as a starting pitcher. “I’m a starting pitcher,” he said at the time. “I’ve always been a starting pitcher, and I think I showed in the fifth and sixth inning that I could get people out still in the fifth and sixth inning when my pitch count gets up, so I am a starting pitcher.” As I noted in a poll just hours ago, though, that’s not up to Harvey; it’s up to Mets management. Speaking of which, over 80% of you believed at that time that New York should move Harvey to the ’pen.
In regards to Harvey’s impending free agency, the position change certainly doesn’t help his earning power. Relievers make significantly fewer dollars on the open market than starters, and if Harvey can’t turn his performance around he’s unlikely to make even eight figures if he enters that market as a bullpen arm. Although it seems worth mentioning that Harvey’s free agent stock was already at an all-time low, so if he develops into any semblance of a useful reliever, he could still out-earn what he was likely to make on the open market had he continued to pitch the way he was pitching as a starter.
This situation will be well worth monitoring across the next few weeks. Harvey could certainly figure something out that helps his game, and merit a return to the rotation sooner than later. And even amidst all the hoopla about his position change, it’s easily possible that an injury to one of Jason Vargas, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz could necessitate Harvey’s return to the starting five. For the time being, though, it will be interesting to see how Callaway utilizes Harvey in his new role with the club.