New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey used to be one of the best young hurlers in the game.
But now he’s embroiled in controversy, suspended by his team for allegedly calling in sick last Saturday and not showing up at the ballpark after staying out drinking until 4 a.m.
It seems like the Mets are fed up with Harvey and his antics. Teams can look past a lot when their ace is mowing down hitters. But when he’s 2-2 with a 5.14 earned run average while causing a clubhouse distraction, a lack of focus is a lot tougher to swallow.
So, with all of that baggage in mind, I wonder if Harvey is acquirable and, if so, if he’s worth the St. Louis Cardinals taking on as a rehab project.
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It may sound crazy to seek out a guy who has created a bit of a reputation as a clubhouse cancer. Especially when his numbers have been on the decline for the past couple of seasons following Tommy John surgery and then thorasic outlet surgery. But the Cardinals seem to be dangerously shorthanded on starters with Adam Wainwright proving to be one of the most hittable hurlers in the game, top prospect Alex Reyes out for the year and Tyler Lyons unable to stay healthy.
Harvey could be another superstar in the making who flamed out too young. Or the Cardinals could catch lightning in a bottle and help a guy from the New York area who has trouble staying out of the glaring spotlight and avoiding getting caught up in the glamour of playing in one of the largest markets in baseball find his focus in an environment with less scrutiny and less distraction. A few less late night parties with supermodels and a little more concentration on baseball might do Harvey and his reputation wonders.
What’s not questionable is the pitcher’s effort on the mound.
Harvey, if nothing else, is a gamer. He’s going to go out there and give a team everything he’s got for six or seven innings every fifth day. While his ERA is terrible, he’s at least serviceable the way he is — and he has as much upside as any pitcher in baseball. He’s a guy who could suddenly get it back together and be a staff ace. How valuable would that be to a club that was counting on Wainwright to be its number two starter and now finds its former ace struggling to hang on to the fifth spot in the rotation?
One of the reasons Harvey is appealing is because he’s relatively cheap in terms of financial commitment it would take to get him. If he pans out, he’d be an outright steal. He’s in his second year of arbitration making $5.5 million on a one-year contract. To put things in perspective, that’s about one-third of what the Redbirds are paying Mike Leake to be their fourth starter and close to a quarter of what St. Louis is paying Wainwright both this year and next. It’s utility infielder money. Bullpen pitcher cash — for a guy who is only 28 and who still has superstar potential.
The beauty of the situation is that if Harvey is a total bust the Birds aren’t committed to a long-term mega deal. They could let him walk away at the end of the season with no strings attached or they could trade his rights to another club. But Harvey has to know that he’s toying with throwing his career away. If he could come to St. Louis, a club that is competitive, and have a chance to shine, he could cash in big time when he hits free agency after the 2019 season. If he has any sense at all, he’d be motivated by the opportunity.
The question is what sort of talent the Cardinals would have to give up to get Harvey. I certainly wouldn’t sacrifice the farm on a risky proposition. But if the Cardinals could trade Harrison Bader and a minor league pitcher for Harvey, would that be reasonable? St. Louis has all three outfield spots covered for multiple seasons and we’re all seeing that maybe Mags Sierra is closer to the big leagues than originally thought and Bader could be excess baggage.
I leave sorting out the trade pieces to St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak. Because if there is one thing Mo knows better than anyone else in baseball, it’s how to turn rehab projects and fishing expeditions into gold.