Posted on September 21, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
It’s been a rough season for New York Mets starter Matt Harvey. When he hasn’t been on the DL with shoulder problems he’s had a world of struggles on the mound, looking nothing like the all-star he was just a few years ago. Harvey’s poor performance has frustrated the team’s fan base and created speculation that the Mets could choose not to tender him a contract next season. But Mets GM Sandy Alderson the team has no intention of cutting ties with Harvey.
“It’s highly unlikely that we’re not going to bring him back next year,” Alderson said Wednesday.
Harvey is entering his final year of arbitration next season, so he no longer has long-term upside from New York’s perspective. However, considering his $5.1 million salary this season and his poor performance on the field, he’s unlikely to make more than $6 million in 2018. That’s a reasonable salary for a player who still has a 3.46 ERA in 99 career starts. If Harvey can merely pitch like a no. 5 starter next season, he will be more cost-effective than the Mets signing a free agent to fill that role.
Of course, Harvey’s performance this season is a far cry from a no. 5 starter on a team hoping to contend for a playoff spot. In 17 starts, Harvey is 5-6 with a 6.59 ERA. Things have only gotten worse since Harvey return from the DL earlier this month. In four September starts, Harvey is 1-3 with a 13.19 ERA. Over 14.1 innings, he’s only struck out eight batters, leaving the Mets are trying to find any positives they can.
“We saw some positive things the other day,” Alderson said of Harvey’s start Monday against the Marlins. “Hopefully we can build on those. The velocity was a little better, he just needs some confidence and we’re going to keep running him out there and see what happens toward the end of the season. But let’s not assume the worst.”
The worst-case scenario for Harvey is that injuries have deprived him of the ability to pitch at the major league level. Harvey missed all of 2014 with Tommy John surgery but managed to bounce back in 2015. He won 13 games and posted a 2.71 ERA in 2015, helping the Mets reach the World Series. But Harvey couldn’t keep it going in 2016. After pitching well below expectations, Harvey eventually required surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.
With both elbow and shoulder surgery a part of his medical history, Harvey looked like a completely different pitcher early in 2017. His velocity was down and he lacked the swagger and attitude on the mound that once made him one of the most promising young pitchers in baseball. There are now questions about whether or not Harvey can ever return to the form he had in 2013 or 2015.
It’s that doubt that has Mets fans wondering if the team could be better off without him next season. But the possibility of Harvey regaining his form, while increasingly unlikely, may be enough to warrant bringing him back for one more season. With pitchers like Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler also question marks because of their health, bringing back Harvey may be necessary to give the Mets more options for their rotation. All of that appears to be enough for the Mets to bring back Harvey in 2018 despite an endlessly frustrating 2017 season.