Matt Harvey of the Mets made a few headlines Sunday when he suggested – with the support of his agent, Scott Boras – that he would only pitch to a maximum of 180 innings in 2015. Harvey, who underwent Tommy John surgery in the 2013-14 offseason, claimed that his surgeon, the famous Dr. James Andrews, recommended the 180 inning limit. Reaction from the New York press was not favourable, with several writers suggesting that the Mets should trade Harvey this upcoming offseason. Which brings us to today’s Wildly Unfounded Trade Speculation (WUTS) – if Harvey were to become available, should the Blue Jays be interested?
Start with the obvious: Harvey is good. Really good. His 2.60 ERA is 10th best in the majors so far this year among qualified starters, and his advanced stats are also excellent. Plus, Harvey is under team control through 2018 at arbitration rates, which have historically been less than market value. And at 26 years old, those three years should be prime production.
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The Jays need starting pitching. While the team hopes to sign a top FA pitcher (David Price
!) in the offseason, the best options will be highly sought after and there is no guarantee that the team will succeed. It is unlikely thatMark Buehrle
will return, even if the Jays make a qualifying offer, andR.A. Dickey
‘s inconsistent performance (and need for a personal catcher) make it less than certain that he will be back. The Jays could have a rotation of Stroman – Hutchison – Sanchez – Osuna – FA in 2016: plenty of potential, but also considerable risk. Matt Harvey’s 400+ career excellent mlb innings would do a lot to stabilize that picture.
So what do the Mets need in return?
In a word, hitting.
The Mets’ oveall offensive rating (per fangraphs) of -14.8 is 13th best in baseball. Not that bad, but arguably not contender calibre – and with Yoenis Cespedes and Daniel Murphy expected to depart, 2016 appears even more problematic. This could be a fit, as Toronto appears to have offense to spare. If the Mets see themselves as serious contenders in 2016, would a one-year rental of Bautista or Encarnacion be sufficiently tempting? If additional pieces are required, how about some combination of Goins, Revere, Pompey and Colabello? Would the Jays even consider Travis or Pillar?
But let’s focus on the other side of the equation. Just how interested would the Jays be?
Toronto Blue Jays
Harvey is good (Oh – I already said that). But he has been a vocal critic of Mets’ policy before (ironically, he opposed the use of a six-man rotation earlier this year, even though it would have limited his innings). And his emphasis of his own needs over the needs of his pennant-contending team (and his initial refusal to even discuss if he would exceed the 180 innings if the Mets made the playoffs) is particularly troubling to a Jays team that has made great efforts to repair a dysfunctional clubhouse. The issue is exacerbated by Harvey’s having Scott Boras as an agent. Love him or hate him, Boras is famous for looking out for his clients – as for example his mini-study on the effects of pitching too many innings after Tommy John surgery. Harvey has since said that he will pitch in the playoffs, but the damage is done.
It is easy to see merit in Harvey’s position. He is just coming off surgery, and precedent exists for teams to close down young pitchers coming off injury (the infamous Strasburg decision in 2012). It is not so far-fetched for Harvey to fear that the team will place their short-term needs ahead of his career. But it is equally easy to interpret Harvey’s caution as lack of hunger to win, and his placing himself first as placing his team and fans last.
There is little question that Harvey (and Boras) have handled this issue poorly. The more important question, for potential trade suitors, is how to interpret it. Is it just a case of a 26-year-old man, thrust into the limelight, making a poor decision? Or is this incident more deeply indicative of the type of player – and person – that Harvey is, with all of the attendant red flags?
The bottom line? If Harvey were perfect, he would almost certainly be untouchable. That he comes with questions is what makes him an intriguing possibility for the Jays in 2016. Personally, I would hesitate to place too much weight on this incident. Remember the alleged Josh Donaldson “Billy Boy” comment? The Tulowitzki trade demand kerfuffle? Or how about Robbie Alomar spitting on John Hirschbeck? Players make mistakes, but we should not let those mistakes define them.