Matt Harvey’s dispute with Mets could allow Red Sox to swoop in to find their ace


You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. Matt Harvey may be finding that out the hard away as Mets fans begin to turn on him for comments many view as making him a two-faced hypocrite.

The man they call the Dark Knight has found himself in the fiercest battle of his young career, but this one takes place off the field. In the dispute between Harvey’s agent Scott Boras and the Mets concerning the 26-year old’s workload, Harvey is leaning toward siding with his representative, according to the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff.

Dr. James Andrews, the orthopedist who performed Harvey’s 2013 Tommy John surgery, advised Harvey to stick to a hard cap of 180 innings in his first season since returning from injury. Boras is merely following the doctor’s orders and Harvey is listening to what his trusted advisers are telling him to do.

"“I hired Dr. Andrews to do my surgery, and I hired Scott, for a reason,” Harvey told the Post. “That’s to prolong my career and get in the best possible position moving forward.”"

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This has ruffled some feathers in the Mets organization, given that Harvey resisted the team’s plan to move to a six-man rotation — a plan designed to help manage the number of innings they were piling up on his young arm. Now as we hit the stretch run, Harvey drops this bombshell that he may not be available when it matters most.

Harvey currently stands at 166 1/3 innings, which means we are rapidly approaching the limit Dr. Andrews has advised. While Harvey insists that he wants to keep pitching, he stopped short of committing to exceeding that 180 innings cap. Harvey has put a dent in the Mets’ playoff hopes, as this innings cap would make it unlikely that he would be available for the postseason.

Davidoff’s column in the Post paints Harvey as a diva, whose high-maintenance personality is wearing thin in New York. If the Mets can’t reach an amicable agreement with how to handle his workload going forward, it may present the team with an opportunity to trade him. The Mets are loaded with starting pitching, so as great as Harvey is on the mound, their staff would remain formidable without him.

This is where the Red Sox could swoop in. When the team visited Flushing last month I discussed why Boston should target pitchers from the Mets deep rotation. While it may have seemed presumptuous to assume New York would be willing to part with any of their young, talented starters, the crisis they find themselves in now may make Harvey more available than ever.

Boston’s farm system is loaded with talent, but most of their top prospects are years away from contributing. A Mets team currently running away with the NL East isn’t likely to give up a significant piece of their core for a handful of prospects still in A-ball. They will want players ready to make an impact now, preferably bats that will bolster their lineup. The good news is that the Red Sox have those to offer as well.

The Red Sox resisted the urge to give up top young position players like Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart when they were navigating the trade market for a front-line starter last winter, but that was under the old regime. Dave Dombrowski may be more willing to part with them, especially since Jackie Bradley‘s emergence and Christian Vazquez‘s eventual return could make them slightly more expendable.

Besides, it was one thing to refuse to give up those valuable cost-controlled future stars in a deal for someone like Cole Hamels, a 31-year old making well north of $20 million per year. A young pitcher like Harvey, who still has three more seasons of team control before he’s eligible for free agency, is an entirely different story.

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If that price still seems too steep to pay, a package headlined by All-Star Brock Holt could entice the Mets. Perhaps New York can be sold that this second half surge from Bradley has finally shown us the player he really is. They can always spruce up the deal with prospects, as long as the Mets are getting something of value that they can use now so that dealing Harvey doesn’t cause them to slip from their contender status.

Harvey is 5th in the National League with a 2.60 ERA and 7th with a 4.65 K/BB ratio. He owns a 4.2 WAR this season, which would put him behind only Betts on the Red Sox roster this season and a full 2.0 WAR ahead of any healthy member of Boston’s current rotation. Oh, plus Harvey can also get even better the further removed he gets from surgery.

Trading for Harvey after this season would solve Boston’s problems at the top of the rotation. He’s entering the prime of his career, so Boston would be paying him for his best seasons, rather than committing long-term to a veteran that comes with a risk of decline on the back end of the deal. Given that next year will be only Harvey’s first year of arbitration eligibility, his affordable contract still leaves plenty of room for Boston to chase the top pitches on the free agent market if they want to go that route as well, potentially giving the Red Sox a solid one-two punch at the top of their rotation.

Harvey’s reluctance to pitch beyond his innings cap this season has angered a lot of Mets fans, but can you really blame him? The Mets want him to pitch because they want to win now, but Harvey is merely listening to the advice of those that have his best interests in mind. That doesn’t make him high-maintenance, it makes him cautious. What’s best for Harvey’s career may not mesh well with his team’s current needs.

If this dispute puts Harvey on the table for a potential trade this winter, his reluctance to put his long-term health at risk may not sit well with the Mets, but it would benefit any team that acquires him.

New York may turn Harvey into a villain, but that doesn’t mean the Dark Knight can’t rise again as a hero in a new city.