Matt Harvey Would be the Perfect Reclamation Project for the Athletics

Matt Harvey is one of the biggest enigmas in Major League Baseball. But the Oakland Athletics are in need of starting pitching, and the right-hander would be the perfect reclamation project for president Billy Beane and company.

According to Fancred‘s Jon Heyman, the A’s and Cincinnati Reds are interested in signing Harvey. The 29-year-old is coming off a rollercoaster season. He began the year starting for the Mets, but after showing little to no signs of reliability in four starts, manager Mickey Callaway sent the right-hander to the bullpen, and the results weren’t much better. After eight appearances (four starts, four relief appearances), Harvey recorded a 7.00 ERA and 1.56 WHIP leading management to designate him for assignment and later trade him to the Reds.

With the Reds, Harvey did not dazzle on the rubber, but he did pitch with more consistency. In 24 starts, he recorded a 4.50 ERA and 1.25 WHIP while totaling 111 strikeouts. At the same time, he pitched through seven innings once, finished with just 128.0 innings pitched, never dominated, and saw a severe drop in his velocity. Once a high 90s pitcher, Harvey is now anything but a velocity pitcher; he relies on catching hitters off-guard with his fastball and getting them to reach for his breaking pitches.

It’s almost as if he’s forced to take on the approach of a pitcher on the back nine of his career. But that’s what Harvey is at this stage of his career: a middle-of-the-rotation arm who, while talented, does not pose an overpowering presence on the rubber. With that said, could the A’s bring out a more productive version of the Harvey that existed with the Reds?

Matt Harvey needs a fresh start and the Oakland @Athletics need starting pitching. @RPStratakos explains why each could benefit from a potential free agency deal.Click To Tweet

The A’s won 97 games last season with a mediocre starting rotation. Before his shoulder injury, lefty Sean Manaea was manager Bob Melvin‘s ace, but he manned such a role with a 3.59 ERA and striking out just 108 batters in 160.2 innings. Veterans Trevor Cahill and Edwin Jackson excelled recording ERAs of 3.76 and 3.33. Righty Mike Fiers recorded a 3.74 ERA and 1.06 WHIP while totaling 52 strikeouts in the nine starts he made with the A’s after coming to the West Coast in a midseason trade. Daniel Mengden and Brett Anderson recorded ERAs of 4.05 and 4.48 in a combined 34 starts. The A’s started nine other pitchers over the course of the regular season.

One year ago, Manaea recorded a 4.37 ERA and 1.40 WHIP; Cahill spent time with the San Diego Padres and Kansas City Royals and recorded a combined 4.93 ERA and 1.62 WHIP; Jackson spent time with the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals and recorded a combined 5.21 ERA; Fiers recorded a 5.22 ERA with the Houston Astros and was left off their postseason roster; Anderson spent time with the Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays and recorded a 6.34 ERA and 1.70 WHIP. A’s pitching coach Scott Emerson righted a number of pitchers in 2018. Why can’t Harvey be Emerson and the A’s next project?

Collectively, the A’s starting rotation was 17th in MLB in ERA (4.17) and 29th in strikeouts (610) in 2018. With Cahill and Jackson currently on the open market and Manaea likely out for the 2019 season, those figures could decrease. Considering that Beane is known for getting the most out of bang for the buck signings, it’s hard to envision the A’s going all in on a top-of-the-rotation starter who will command a contract in excess of $15 million a year. That’s why their interest in Harvey should come as no surprise.

Sure, Harvey was once one of the best starters in the sport, but, at this point of his career, he’ll likely reel in a contract worth roughly six-to-seven million a season. And Oakland offers him the perfect situation.

Harvey can go into Oakland, fill a void, and be an ideal fit for their system. The A’s prefer to rely on and use their bullpen to extremes, as their starting rotation was 27th in MLB in innings pitched in 2018 (824.1). Heck, they went with a bullpen day over a true starting pitcher in their American League Wild Card Game matchup with the New York Yankees. So, if Harvey is truly a four-to-five inning starter, he’s a perfect fit on the A’s. He can go all out for five innings and his pitch count won’t matter because Melvin and the A’s aspire to get the ball in the hands of their pen early to begin with.

Harvey is no longer in New York — and likely won’t go back — meaning he doesn’t have to constantly hear about his past failures and whether he’ll return to being the “Dark Knight.” And no one ever felt the Reds would be his new permanent home — though they appear to, at the very least, be interested in bringing him back for 2019. With the A’s, he can focus on reinventing himself, helping a team return to the playoffs, and be a focal point of their pitching staff.

The A’s need starting pitching, and Harvey needs a chance. Sounds like the two parties are a match made in heaven.

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