In the last week or so, you may have heard a lot about Matt Harvey. Any other time this isn’t news, as it usually means that the New York Mets’ star right-hander has twirled yet another gem of a start.
This time around the story is different, as Harvey came under fire for saying that he would prefer to not go over his 180-inning season limit. That cap includes the playoffs, a fact that has many Mets fans and front office officials nervous about their postseason hopes.
To make matters worse, Harvey’s agent has clashed publicly with Mets general manager Sandy Alderson about the limit, as well as the health of his client. Harvey’s agent is none other than the super-agent Scott Boras.
Depending on who you are or whose side you’re on when it comes to many topics, the mention of Boras probably either makes you roll your eyes exasperatedly or cower in fear. In this year alone, Boras has been centered around two high-profile controversies. The first involved Chicago White Sox rookie left-hander Carlos Rodon. The third overall pick in the 2014 draft, Rodon is represented by Boras, and as the signing deadline inched closer reports began to come out that Boras was pushing the White Sox to offer a bigger signing bonus to his 22-year-old client. Rodon and Boras were reportedly pushing for a bonus around $8 million, and while the two sides ultimately settled on a bonus around $6.5 million ($700,000 above slot value), Boras nearly cost the White Sox their first-round pick (which actually wouldn’t have been the first time).
On the other side of town, Boras was publicly calling out the Chicago Cubs for sending phenom Kris Bryant to the minors to start 2015 despite an impressive showing in Spring Training. It was a smart move for the Cubs, as sending Bryant down until April 17 gave them another year of control on the young third baseman. Boras and the MLBPA were not too happy, however, and both made sure their displeasures were heard, and thus Boras and the Cubs weren’t on the best terms.
Boras has a history of causing trouble and clashing with teams when it comes to his clients. This situation with Harvey goes far beyond signing bonuses and service time, though, as Boras could potentially cripple a whole team this time around. Alderson and Boras have gone back and forth, very publicly, about the situation, and there is something to be said for both sides. On one hand Boras is right to want to protect Harvey and his elbow, especially when Harvey clearly has a huge payday coming after his current $600K contract is up. On the other hand, however, Harvey is a pitcher for the Mets, and the Mets are looking at their first playoff berth since 2006, with a potential division crown to boot.
The Mets need Harvey. He is their foundation, and without him the whole team and its playoff hopes may come crashing down. Even though Harvey came out and said he would pitch in the playoffs, Boras has made it clear that he has a lot of influence over the 26-year-old. What’s to stop the super-agent from advising his client to change his stance and be adamant about not pitching over his limit? Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery on Harvey’s elbow, has already been brought into the fold as well, so who is to say Boras won’t bring the doctor in for a chat with Harvey and convince him to shut it down?
Supposedly, the Mets have come up with a compromise that will put Harvey on a regular pitching schedule, but will make each start a “half-outing.” This will not only allow Harvey to pitch down the road, but will also keep the innings down. But if Boras doesn’t like this plan, or if the Mets decide they need Harvey for an emergency “full” start (piling more innings up) and Boras decides to talk with his client and they decide it is in Harvey’s best interest to not pitch in October, the Mets will have a real problem on their hands.
As it stands right now the Mets are using a six-man rotation of Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon, Noah Syndergaard, Jonathon Niese, and Steven Matz (who is returning from the disabled list). Let’s go ahead and say the Mets win the NL East and make the playoffs, which means they would have to trim down to a four-man rotation — say, Harvey, deGrom, Colon, and Syndergaard. Take out Harvey and the Mets have to instead pitch Niese (8-10 4.36 ERA) or Matz, who has a 1.89 ERA but has only made three starts for a total of 19 innings. We would assume that the Mets would go with Matz because Niese just hasn’t been very good this year, but that means they now have two rookie pitchers in their playoff rotation, one who hasn’t even cracked 50 innings at the highest level.
Having Harvey in the playoff rotation gives the Mets a much better chance to win and makes the rotation as a whole more solid. If Boras does wish to continue pushing the issue and convinces Harvey that he shouldn’t pitch over his innings limit, the Mets’ hopes of going deep into the playoffs take a significant blow.