Remember the glory days for Matt Harvey when he was starting the All Star game, having fun on Jimmy Fallon and leading the charge on the Mets postseason run? Matt Harvey, who has been designated for assignment would like to, too.
The big question around baseball right now is where is The Dark Knight gonna end up pitching for the remainder of 2018? Houston doesn't seem like the logical choice, but there’s an argument that could be made that they could make a run at him.
For starters (which includes Harvey since he is a self-described starting pitcher), Lance McCullers Jr. has never started more than 22 games in a single season, topping out at 125 2⁄3 innings back in 2015. He came close to that mark again last year with 118 2⁄3 innings pitched, again making 22 starts, but adding Harvey to the roster would give the club some insurance if McCullers were to miss some time again this season. Similarly, Dallas Keuchel has started 26 and 23 games each of the last two years.
Sure, there are other pitchers already on the team that could fill in. Between Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski, there are solid options for spot starts already on the roster, not to mention Francis Martes (6.75 ERA, 6.49 FIP) and David Paulino (6.00 ERA, 2.59 FIP in 3 IP) down in Fresno. Forrest Whitley is still serving his 50-game suspension and will likely begin the season where he left off 2017 in Double-A Corpus Christi when he’s able to return in a few weeks, so he’s an unlikely candidate.
If the Astros front office doesn’t want to disrupt their bullpen, adding Harvey on a low stakes deal could be a solid play on their part. Hell, once he becomes accustomed to pitching with pine tar, his spin rate will rise dramatically and he’ll be back to being an ace, right?
If the Astros were to gain the services of Matt Harvey, they could sign him to a deal that has an in-season opt-out clause, which would basically mean that if he’s not in the big leagues by a certain date (oh yeah, he’s going to the minors to work some stuff out if he’s coming to the reigning, defending champions of the world—even if his refusal to do so was what got him his one way ticket out of New York in the first place) so that he could pursue other options if he’s not happy in Fresno on, say, June 1.
The only way his addition to the Astros works would be on a deal like this one.
The tricky part of this situation is that if the Astros don’t trade for him, there are plenty of others teams that may put in a waiver claim ahead of Houston. Basically, the Mets have seven days to trade Harvey, and if they are unable to find a partner, then he’s going to be placed on irrevocable waivers.
The question then becomes is it worth giving up anything of remote value to get Harvey? The answer is probably no at this point. Although, he’s still just 29-years-old and dominated the league for three seasons before injury issues crept up. A change of scenery could do him some good, and the Astros have the kind of clubhouse atmosphere that could become baseball’s version of the Patriots and Warriors, taking other team’s problem players and turning them into useful parts on a winning club.
If Harvey is to hit the waiver wire, there is a decent chance he ends up in the AL West, with both the Rangers and A’s searching for starting pitching. Texas has taken shots on Tim Lincecum and Tyson Ross in recent years, and Oakland has made a habit out of breathing new life into pitcher’s careers (Scott Kazmir, Rich Hill, Bartolo Colon).
So what works for the Astros would be being able to sign him to a deal with their own terms, but in order to get him on that deal, he’d have to pass through waivers, which is a bit of a long shot. Trading for Harvey would add some money to the ledger, as he’s signed for $5.625 million this season. The Mets have said they’d be willing to eat a “significant chunk” of that figure. If Harvey is not traded and passes through waivers, he’d be a free agent at the pro-rated league minimum. That’s the one that Houston, or most teams, really, want to get him at. But it only takes one team to take that option off the table for everyone interested.
The Astros already have a stacked starting rotation, but the best teams in baseball are built around depth. Not just 25 deep, but 40 plus. At this point Matt Harvey is at the very least a very intriguing depth option for the champs, but I wouldn’t count on him ending up in Houston.