Matt Harvey isn’t calling it quits. The former Mets ace tells Dan Martin of the New York Post that he’s throwing bullpen sessions once or twice per week in hopes of landing a contract once the leaguewide transaction freeze has been lifted. Harvey reportedly tried out for the Blue Jays in February and didn’t receive an offer, but the 31-year-old feels he’s used the additional downtime to correct some “bad habit from last year” that he might’ve otherwise rushed through.
“I hope somebody gives me a shot,” Harvey tells Martin. “I feel like I have many more years in me. … I’ve grown up and matured on and off the field.”
Harvey’s swift fall from grace has been well documented. Injuries decimated what looked to be an extraordinarily promising career for the former No. 7 overall pick, who pitched to a 2.53 ERA/2.65 FIP with 9.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 through his first 427 MLB innings. In a span of less than three years, though, the touted righty underwent Tommy John surgery and thoracic outlet surgery. The injuries were followed by a sharp downturn in his results on the field, which combined with a reputation for partying off the field and a questionable clubhouse presence to sully the general opinion of the former “Dark Knight” in Queens.
[Related: When the Dark Knight Left Gotham]
However, Harvey had a rebirth of sorts following a trade to Cincinnati. The right-hander didn’t completely return to form, but his velocity improved as he worked to a respectable 4.50 ERA in 128 frames out of the Reds’ rotation in 2018. Harvey was clobbered in two of his 24 starts with the Reds (15 runs in a combined nine innings), but outside of those poor showings was quite solid (3.70 ERA). He held opponents to three or fewer runs in 17 of his 24 starts with the Reds. By all accounts, he appeared to be a good clubhouse fit there.
The improved velocity and relative stability he showed with the Reds prompted the Angels to bring Harvey in on a one-year, $11MM deal. It was a somewhat steep price to pay for a pitcher who many still viewed as a reclamation project, but the upside with a pitcher of Harvey’s pedigree was alluring enough to pique the Halos’ interest. Instead, Harvey delivered a disastrous 7.09 ERA and 6.35 FIP that were worse than even his lowest points with the Mets. He latched on with the A’s on a minor league deal but was never called to the Majors.
Harvey made a couple of relief appearances with the A’s in Triple-A and was said to be open to trying out a reliever role, so perhaps he’d be open to that this time around. At this point, a “beggars can’t be choosers” mentality seems like a necessity, so a short relief role doesn’t seem to be out of the question. The league’s proposal to the Players Association reportedly will expand rosters to as many as 30 players and could have a taxi squad of 15 to 20 additional players available to every club. That type of roster expansion could seemingly help Harvey’s chances, as clubs will likely aim to stockpile as much pitching depth as possible.
It’s been nearly five years since we’ve seen Harvey at his best, but he’s still just 31 years old. A return to prominence may be a long shot, but we’ve seen longer shots make successful comebacks in recent years (Rich Hill, Scott Kazmir among them).