The Orioles have selected the contract of veteran right-hander Matt Harvey, per a club announcement. The move fills Baltimore’s 40-man roster and assures Harvey of a spot on the Opening Day club. Harvey had an opt-out clause in his contract yesterday, which gave the O’s 48 hours to add him to the roster or cut him loose, Dan Connolly of The Athletic tweets.
Harvey inked a minor league deal with the O’s back in mid-February and reported to camp as non-roster invitee this spring. He’s started three Grapefruit League contests, during which he’s yielded six runs on 10 hits and a walk with six punchouts through 10 innings of work. He and fellow veterans Felix Hernandez and Wade LeBlanc have been vying for spots on an extremely inexperienced pitching staff. Lefty John Means is the only other true lock for the rotation, though young righty Dean Kremer and southpaw Keegan Akin both seem likely to leave Spring Training with starting jobs.
Harvey, 32 this weekend, is years removed from his status as one of the game’s most promising young aces and from the “Dark Knight” moniker that took baseball by storm. The No. 7 overall pick in the 2010 draft, Harvey was in the big leagues by 2012 and flat-out dominated opposing hitters early in his career. Through his first 427 big league frames, the righty notched an outstanding 2.53 ERA while striking out 26.6 percent of the batters he faced against an excellent 5.6 percent walk rate.
Injuries, however, have wreaked havoc on what looked to be a brilliant career in the making. Harvey missed the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery, and while he was terrific during his 2015 return, he dealt with shoulder discomfort in 2016 before ultimately undergoing the much more ominous thoracic outlet surgery. The general track record of pitchers coming back from a thoracic outlet procedure isn’t great in the first place, and Harvey is one of few pitchers who underwent both Tommy John surgery and thoracic outlet surgery in a span of under three years.
Unsurprisingly, Harvey simply hasn’t been the same since. He regained some velocity following a trade to the Reds in 2018 and parlayed a decent showing with Cincinnati into a one-year, $11MM free-agent deal with the Angels. However, that contract proved regrettable for the Angels, who released Harvey that July. A 2020 comeback attempt with the Royals was similarly unproductive.
Overall, since returning from throacic outlet surgery, Harvey has tallied 319 innings in the Majors and limped to a 6.09 earned run average. He’s yielded 365 hits, including 67 home runs, in those 319 frames while watching both his strikeout and walk rates trend in the wrong direction. His fastball, which averaged 95.9 mph at his peak, sat at 93.2 mph with the Angels in 2019 and 94.1 mph with Kansas City last year (when he was working in shorter stints).
The Orioles will hope to catch lightning in a bottle and see Harvey bounce back to an extent, although at this point the expectations for a rebound should be rather low. Harvey’s deal guarantees him just a $1MM base salary, so it’s a low-cost roll of the dice for a tanking Orioles club.