In a little under two months, it appears that Matt Harvey being traded to the Cincinnati Reds was the best thing that could have happened to him. It’s difficult to get too excited about someone who has an ERA over four in his nine starts with the team, but for Harvey, it’s promising. To say this season has been a roller coaster for Harvey would be an understatement to say the least. Still, after all the negativity surrounding him, he has embraced being away from the bright lights of New York City to keep his baseball career alive.
The hype around the New York Mets to recover from a disastrous 2017 was real, especially because their starting pitchers were all finally going to be healthy together for the first time. Harvey backed it up with a solid spring training followed by two impressive starts to open the season. However, Harvey soon struggled and was relegated to the bullpen, eventually refusing a minor-league assignment and forcing the Mets to designate him for assignment and trade him to the Reds.
Harvey has since recovered, becoming a bright spot for the Reds, but the club has to decide whether to keep him or flip him to acquire some young talent. Harvey will be 30 years old when 2019 Opening Day rolls around, so he doesn’t necessarily line up with the Reds’ timeline. When Harvey was available in early May, the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers were the only other teams interested, and the trade was viewed by the Mets as addition by subtraction. Fast forward, and Harvey has become a viable candidate to be moved at July’s trade deadline.
During his Reds tenure thus far, Harvey’s numbers are not off the charts, but at the same time they don’t have to be. Harvey has always been a hard thrower his entire career, but his velocity was not there early this season. His fastball averaged around 91 MPH in April, and now in June he has been creeping towards triple digits and showing flashes of his old self.
Harvey’s strongest performance yet came in his last outing against the Atlanta Braves, in which he pitched into the seventh inning and allowed one earned run in his longest start of the season. He only struck out two batters, but at this stage in his career, a quality start every fifth day is a reasonable ask. The Braves lead the National League in hits and rank second in OPS, so this start was extremely encouraging against a formidable opponent on the road.
Thoracic outlet syndrome is a serious injury that has taken a toll on many pitchers. Phil Hughes has also suffered from the injury, and his career is on the line pitching out of the bullpen for the San Diego Padres. This season is also important for Harvey since he will be a free agent this winter. The $200 million contract he once coveted is now a pipe dream, and there is also no guarantee he has a spot on a 25-man roster in 2019.
Harvey will not be a pitcher teams will line up for, but there should be suitors that can benefit from trading for him.
The Giants have shown interest in the past, and despite them getting more healthy with Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto on their way back, Harvey could be a buy-low option to eat innings and make starts in the later months of the season.
Injuries have also affected the Los Angeles Angels rotation, and despite their postseason hopes becoming less likely by the day, they are built to win now. Harvey can be an impact starter and alleviate the number of times manager Mike Scioscia has to make pitching changes, which tops the American League.
There’s nothing like a good first impression, and the Braves had front row seats to Harvey in his best form this year. They have been relying on young arms such as Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb, but if Harvey can fill the same role that Francisco Liriano did with the Houston Astros in August and September last year, it’s a logical match.
Although Harvey has been everything the Reds have wanted and more, the team is still not ready to compete in the next year or two. With the trade deadline approximately a month away, capitalizing on his rising stock would be the best move for the Reds organization going forward.