Cincinnati Reds: Why Matt Harvey should be re-signed

SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 2: Matt Harvey #32 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on June 2, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 2: Matt Harvey #32 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on June 2, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /

With plenty of talent testing the free agency waters this off-season, the Cincinnati Reds expect to be chasing after arms to shore up their weak starting rotation and bullpen. Could one of those pieces already be in the clubhouse?

In a mid-season trade with the New York Mets that sent injury-prone catcher Devin Mesoraco to the Big Apple, the Cincinnati Reds acquired troubled pitcher Matt Harvey. If this was 2015 when the Mets went to the World Series, you’d think it was a typo.

In the years since that 2015 runner-up finish to the Kansas City Royals, Harvey had gone from Cy Young hopeful to disgruntled distraction in the Mets clubhouse. His decline was a sharp one, which led to the eventual demotion to the minors and a toxicity surrounding the team.

When Harvey was brought in, his headlines about being in clubs and off-the-field distractions loomed over him. Jokes were made and critics were fast to downplay the new veteran presence in the rotation.

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With his past dominance and experience pitching against the best, Harvey started almost immediately and never looked back. Since his 2015 season in which he was 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA over 29 games, Harvey ended 2018 with the most productive season since then.

Combined with the Mets and Reds he was in 32 games and started 28 of them. Harvey ended with a 7-9 record and a 4.50 ERA, but what was encouraging was that these were his best numbers since 2015. While it isn’t dominant by any stretch, Harvey showed that he could be a positive influence, and has started to find his confidence on the mound again.

A slight rise for the Dark Knight

Aside from the fact that Harvey was back and making his starts, what was most important was the way he carried himself. Since coming to Cincinnati, Harvey was never involved in any outside distractions or altercations and seemingly found the game of baseball again. Being out of the bright lights New York offers certainly helped, but it seemed like Harvey had a breath of fresh air in his new beginning in the Queen City.

On the mound, his record didn’t reflect it, but Harvey proved to be a deep innings guy. On a rotation where only Anthony DeSclafani and occasionally Luis Castillo lasted more than three innings in their starts, Harvey consistently went five to six innings almost every time out. Sure he had his starts where he gave up runs, but for the most part, he had support on both sides of the ball and worked his way out of jams.

Going the distance in most of his starts allowed the bullpen to have dominant innings and bring to light some young flamethrowers for the future. His fastball averaged 94 mph and he was able to set his pitches up on the inside corners, where opponents were only batting .162 to .281 against. He also preferred a sinker most of the time to compliment that fastball over the right side of the zone. 

Has his market-value risen?

With his veteran presence, postseason experience, and plainly who he was prior, teams will be interested in picking up Harvey on a cheap deal for an established rotation arm. Prior to 2018, Harvey signed a one year deal with the Mets for roughly $5.6 million. This deal, all guaranteed money, carried over to his time with the Reds.

Now that he is turning 30, Harvey is going to look for slightly more money now that he has improved from before. It was reported that the Milwaukee Brewers had claimed him off waivers towards the end of the season but never acted on it.

Should the Reds go above $5.6 million to extend Harvey for the 2019 season? The team is going to look to get quality players while saving money, so it’s possible Harvey is attainable. Considering he hasn’t ruled out any team besides the Mets, Matt Harvey could return on a home-team discount since we gave him a chance at a comeback.

He necessarily wouldn’t be an ace of a pitching staff, but he certainly would be a strong middle starter of a rotation and provide veteran depth. With the Cincinnati Reds focused on developing youth, and the promise of a few starters this year, Harvey would be a piece that could draw another established starter to the Queen City.

Where will he land?

Only time will tell if the Reds are willing to reach an agreement with Harvey, and if he is going to entertain better offers that might come his way. While not yet the ace pitcher he once was, if the team can get him at a cheap, affordable rate and build around him, it will be scary to see what he can do in a whole season.

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Now that he is familiar with the Cincinnati Reds system and is dedicated to pitching again, I feel that he will improve from this past season going into 2019. His effect not only on the mound but in the clubhouse could be the crucial piece this team needs to retain. With their win-now mentality and their weakness of pitching, he could be the missing piece.