This Isn’t the Time to Trade Matt Harvey

We’re a little early for Dave Cameron’s annual must-read Trade Value series, but I suspect Matt Harvey won’t be appearing in it this year. I feel quite certain about that prognostication — even if Harvey avoids exile to the minor leagues and returns instead to his vintage 2013 form over the next few weeks.

Harvey met with the media Tuesday afternoon at Citi Field and tried to begin taking some accountability for his recent actions.

While Harvey initially claimed that an innocent headache prevented him from showing up at the ballpark on Saturday, the New York Post later reported that Harvey’s headache was perhaps a product of self-inflicted dehydration.

The “Dark Knight” was celebrating a late Cinco de Mayo at 1Oak until 4 a.m. Saturday — just hours before he failed to show up for a game at Citi Field, reportedly because of a “migraine,” sources said.

If true, it’s remarkable that folks still believe they can escape truth in an era of smart phones and social media.

A day earlier, Jon Heyman reported that Harvey and his agent Scott Boras planned to file a grievance over the suspension. It was suggested that the Harvey camp was displeased with the Mets’ decision to send team officials over to Harvey’s apartment for a check-in. Whatever the case, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of trust here.

The Mets’ 2017 season has become quite the soap opera, and it stars Harvey.

Mets fans are rightly tired of Harvey’s act and latest irresponsible decision. Many are calling for him to be traded, including voices like Joe Gigilo of, who recently opined that Harvey’s career as a Mets pitcher is “over” and that the Mets “should look to deal Harvey right now… as soon as possible.”

I get it. I’m a native Clevelander, one who lived through the Johnny Manziel era. Let’s hope Harvey’s issues aren’t as severe and troubling. It’s possible that Harvey is too much of a distraction. Only those who reside in the Mets’ clubhouse really know.

But this is a poor time to sell on Harvey. The worst of times, really. Even if Harvey were pitching well and showing up at the ballpark, his trade value wouldn’t be particularly high at the moment. He has just 1.6 seasons of club control remaining. Add in his poor performance this season, his off-the-field antics, and his attempt this year to return from a second major surgery — in this case, to address thoracic outlet syndrome — and Harvey’s trade value has significantly declined.

Harvey’s upside outweighs his up-to-the-second trade value for the Mets. Because the upside remains significant.

Consider: Harvey was ranked seventh in Dave’s trade value list from 2013. In 2014, Harvey was ranked 25th by that same measure. In 2015, Cameron ranked Harvey 27th overall.

And it’s not as if Cameron was alone in his esteem for Harvey. Jonah Keri included Harvey within his own version of the list at Grantland. This was a pre-arbitration ace both before and after Tommy John surgery.

A three-time trade-value-list member is almost by definition a talented individual.

The problem with trading Harvey now is that he simply has a much reduced value. The other problem with trading Harvey is that the Mets really need him to be good. Noah Syndergaard is hurt. Steven Matz is always hurt. The club’s playoff odds have fallen to 30%. Even a diminished Harvey still projects to be the Mets’ third-best arm (1.8 WAR, 4.07 FIP) the rest of the way. You don’t want to punt a season in mid-May.

It certainly seems as though Harvey’s long-term future is somewhere else besides New York — and maybe the club and player will be better off eventually parting ways — but the Mets’ best hope of near-term improvement probably includes Harvey producing a characteristically strong performance going forward.

If the Mets traded Harvey right now, what would his value be? He would have some value, surely. He wouldn’t have zero value. At 28, he’s still relatively young. He still has an above-average fastball (94 mph) — one that has touched 98 mph — and which exhibited better velocity in his last start. He still has four pitches. He still has perceived upside. I asked Dave Cameron for a recent trade-value comp. He mentioned Matt Moore, in that season when Moore was traded from Tampa Bay to San Francisco.

Cameron noted that Moore isn’t a perfect comp for Harvey. He had two extra years of control at the time of his own trade. He’s similar, though, in that his talent wasn’t producing commensurate results.

The Rays enjoyed a not insignificant return in the form of Matt Duffy, Lucius Fox, and Michael Santos. Because of his control and off-the-field concerns, the Mets would likely receive less for Harvey.

Last year, Craig Edwards imagined a Joc Pederson-Harvey deal.

So it’s not that has Harvey has no value; he would have some if he were put on the market today. But as frustrating as he’s been to the Mets’ clubhouse, he still has more value as part of their rotation than out of it. Now, if the Mets fall further out of the race, if Harvey’s performance improves, revisiting a trade in July would make more sense and could yield the club a greater return.

The advice from this free-of-charge analyst is to “hold,” as unsatisfying as that might seem to the Mets fans and some in the organization. The advice here is to have incredible patience and hope to be rewarded for it.

Maybe Harvey will never be able to pitch with his reduced velocity, a possibility which Eno Sarris examined this spring this spring. But his velocity is up from the spring. The Mets believed he was going to require some time to get feel back in regard to his secondary stuff. If he can stay healthy and in good standing with the team, Harvey is a good bet to better the rest of the way. Maybe he will never be his 2013- or 2015-self again, but he can be better.

ESPN’s Buster Olney suggested something else — namely, that Harvey be sent to the minors. (Perhaps an affiliate other than Las Vegas!)

Maybe a minor-league trip would re-focus Harvey. Maybe the negative backlash this week will be a needed wake-up call for Harvey, who said he is “embarrassed.” Hopefully, Harvey has correctable maturity issues and not something more severe, because Mets are best positioned going forward, at least in the near term, with Harvey in their rotation.

A Cleveland native, FanGraphs writer Travis Sawchik is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Big Data Baseball. He also contributes to The Athletic Cleveland, and has written for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Sawchik.

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6 years ago

Because he’s the starter the Mets deserve, but not the starter they need right now.

6 years ago
Reply to  awalnoha

I wish I could thumbs-up this three times.

6 years ago
Reply to  sabrtooth

Do you have three thumbs, or is there another reason you chose that number?