The Matt Harvey era with the Mets ended late last week, when news emerged that the team was set to designate its former ace pitcher for assignment. The final act of Harvey’s very up-and-down career in New York came Tuesday, when the Mets announced that they had traded him to the Reds.
In exchange, Cincinnati is sending catcher Devin Mesoraco to New York, which has a need at that position after losing its top two catchers, Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki, to injuries last month. Plawecki is expected to return from a broken hand in several weeks but d’Arnaud is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and the Mets have been forced to go with an underwhelming tandem of Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido.
A 2013 all-star, Harvey bounced back nicely from his own Tommy John surgery that year, missing the 2014 season but recording a 2.71 ERA with a 1.019 WHIP the following season. However, further injuries, most notably a 2016 case of thoracic outlet syndrome that required season-ending surgery, have turned the 29-year-old into a shell of his former, dominating self.
Over the past three seasons, including 39 starts in 44 appearances, Harvey went 9-19 with a 5.93 ERA, the third-worst mark in MLB over that span among pitchers with at least 200 innings, and a 1.578 WHIP. After he struggled to start this season, Harvey was asked by the Mets to accept an assignment to the minor leagues, where he could work out his issues, but he reportedly declined, leading to the team’s decision to part ways with him.
The Reds, in New York for a three-game series against the Mets that began Monday, were well-positioned, both literally and otherwise, to make the trade. In Mesoraco, they had a 2014 all-star to offer, albeit one who had fallen behind Tucker Barnhart on the depth chart and who has posted just a .195 batting average, with a .609 OPS, in 113 games over the past four seasons.
“I think we’re fortunate that it happened to work out the way it did,” Mets executive J.P. Ricciardi said Tuesday. “To be able to address one of our needs was something we were looking to do. Being able to do it, we were pretty happy about that.”
Off to an 8-27 start and in the midst of a multiyear rebuilding project, the Reds can afford to give Harvey all the innings he needs to try to regain some of his previous form, and if he does improve, Cincinnati could flip him to a contender before the trade deadline. “We did make some calls to learn what we could about some of the things that have been talked about. It was primarily mechanics,” Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams said of Harvey’s struggles (via cincinnati.com).
“The stuff is still there,” Williams added.
Harvey’s stuff was never in question early in his career, which began with the Mets making him the seventh overall pick in a loaded 2010 MLB draft class that included the likes of Bryce Harper (first overall), Manny Machado (third), Chris Sale (13th), Christian Yelich (23rd) and former New York teammate Noah Syndergaard (38th). He reached the majors in 2012, striking out 11 in his debut before earning the nickname “The Dark Knight” from delighted fans as he posted a 2.53 ERA over his first three seasons.
Harvey also earned a reputation for enjoying his stardom off the field, and he was suspended three games last season for failing to show up at Citi Field on a game day when he was not scheduled to pitch, with reports at the time indicating he was upset over a romance gone wrong with Brazilian supermodel Adriana Lima.
“Any time we add a player to our team,” Williams said, “there’s always that concern how they’re going to mix in with the players. The good thing is we have a very good clubhouse and very good coaching staff. I would hope that environment allows Matt to come here and get off on the right foot.”
Of Mesoraco, Ricciardi said, “It’s just another quality guy to bring into the clubhouse, and help us at a position that we’ve been struggling a little bit with since the injuries.” The Reds are also reportedly sending cash in the trade to cover the difference in 2018 salary between Mesoraco ($13.125 million) and Harvey ($5.65 million).
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