As much as Major League Baseball in its entirety fascinates me, my attentiveness to baseball has always waxed and waned with the Mariners. Baseball is in many ways a local sport played on a national scale, so I imagine my experience is not unique. Maintaining a base of knowledge to properly contribute to LL has improved my overall league knowledge, but back in 2012-13 I was not as astute a student of the league. Still, I knew Matt Harvey. I knew his face, which made this Jimmy Fallon bit all the more entertaining. Harvey seemed crafted specifically to be a New York pitcher from birth. Technically New Groton, CT is not New York, but until the East Coast generates towns further than half the distance between Seattle & Spokane I’ll call it as I see it.
Most memorably, of course, I knew Matt Harvey’s fastball. 2013 Harvey averaged 95-96-97 on his heater in his brilliant emergence.
But 2013 Harvey tore his elbow in August and missed 2014 with Thomas Edward John Jr. Surgery. His 2015 return followed a common pattern in TJ survivors: reduced velocity and K% in the initial return, but hopeful signs of a return to near pre-injury levels.
Unfortunately, if Tommy John is the brute that clubs you over the head, thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is the thief that cuts your purse in the ensuing confusion. As the lingering condition has become more well-known, it’s been identified as the culprit behind several high-profile declines, including one-time desired LL target Tyson Ross. Harvey’s velocity continues to suffer, and with it his results.
Due to a fastball sitting at 92-93 and a K/9 beginning with 6 instead of 9, Harvey sits on the waiver wire. He’s a free agent at the end of the season and is due a little over $5 million for the rest of the season. His ERA/FIP/xFIP is a grim 7.00/5.67/4.49 through 27.0 IP, including four starts and four relief appearances. By waiving him, the Mets have declared a willingness to pay the entirety of his salary to get him out of their hair. It’s a grim fall for a one-time ace who turned 29 just a month ago, but that brings us to the question that matters here: is Matt Harvey worth the Mariners’ time?
By pure stuff, probably. Seattle is five games over .500 but their rotation is down Erasmo Ramirez and still lacks much punch four out of five turns through the order. The bullpen has been a strength, but Edwin Díaz and Juan Nicasio are on pace for 88 and 84 appearances this year respectively, which is simply too much. Harvey may be toast, and hasn’t been able to handle the National League this year, which makes the prospect of an AL transition all the more daunting. Even in his diminished state, however, Harvey brings more heat than any Mariners starter not named Paxton.
Velocity alone isn’t enough to make you successful, as Arquimedes Caminero can attest. But if Harvey is willing to make an adjustment (or even capable) then he has more upside than most of the pitchers in Seattle’s entire organization. Their offense is such that the Mariners require far less from their starters than most teams, but they still need more, and there aren’t higher ceiling options immediately available. Harvey’s 20.7% HR/FB rate is far from uncharted territory for Mariners pitchers but even still it’s likely to stabilize somewhat, and with it his 63.6% strand rate should rise.
There are murmurs of interest from the Mariners on a low-cost deal to acquire Harvey at a reduced financial cost but I’ve yet to see anything substantive. Harvey’s quality as a teammate and worker has been repeatedly called into question, ultimately resulting in Mets GM Sandy Alderson openly calling Harvey out. The Mets haven’t cultivated a stellar reputation as an organization for handling players, or pitchers in particular, so it’s not gospel that Harvey is the Bad Guy, but he’d be an atypical Dipoto target. The acquisition of Danny Valencia comes to mind last year, where a player with a mixed reputation was acquired only after consulting clubhouse leaders like Robinson Canó, Kyle Seager, and Nelson Cruz. It seems likely a similar path would be followed here. The only former teammates of Harvey on the Mariners 40-man are relievers Chasen Bradford and Erik Goeddel and it’s anyone’s guess whether they would be advocates or detractors.
Considering the cost will likely be insignificant, I’m in favor of kicking the tires on Harvey and seeing if a change of scenery impacts. The leash can be short, and perhaps his attitude or health are unworkable, but Seattle’s alternatives are not immediately more impressive. Wade LeBlanc will always be there if they really need him.
As Ben Thoen pointed out to me after the fact, Harvey was teammates with Kyle Seager during their time at the University of North Carolina.