Oct 24

Should Injuries Shelve Long-Term Talks With Mets Pitchers?

For the past two years, signing the Mets’ young pitchers to long-term contracts seemed a paramount issue. Whom should they sign first, and for how much? Could they afford to sign two? In their wildest dreams, could they keep them all?

HARVEY: What's his market value now? (Getty)

HARVEY: What’s his market value now? (Getty)

With four pitchers coming off surgery, such talk now is but a whisper. We’re not hearing too much these days about Matt Harvey – who had shoulder surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome – leaving after the 2018 season for the Yankees or anybody else for that matter.

Steven Matz had surgery to repair bone spurs in his left elbow and Jacob deGrom, who had Tommy John surgery, is recovering from a second surgery to treat a nerve issue in his elbow. Then there is Zack Wheeler, who had Tommy John surgery and was supposed to ready by July but we didn’t see him all summer and nobody can say for sure when we will.

We won’t know for sure how they are until the spring, but the recovery forecast is looking good for the Mets’ surgically-repaired pitchers as doctors are telling the team they should be ready for the season. Even so, the Mets are likely to handle them all with kid gloves which is why they are interested in bringing back Bartolo Colon and draw relief with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.

The Mets have seven young arms – plus Colon – but we’re no longer hearing talk about contract extensions. Whom should they sign first? Can they afford to sign two or three at a time? Who should they trade to plug holes elsewhere?

However, with Harvey, Matz, deGrom and Wheeler, what’s their trade value? Will teams risk dealing high-level prospects for damaged goods? Certainly, the Mets can’t command as much should they explore trading.

Conventional wisdom has the Mets backing off long-term contract talks as to avoid signing somebody who might not win, or even pitch for them. While their potential might be high, their proven production is not.

Then again, it wouldn’t hurt for the Mets to explore extensions now when their market value might not be as high as it could be in two or three years. It’s a gamble worth considering.

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Jul 08

Harvey Made Right Call On Surgery

Mets’ pitcher Matt Harvey unquestionably made the right decision to undergo surgery for treatment of the thorasic outlet syndrome in his pitching shoulder. It was the best option for his pitching and financial future, and to the Mets for the remainder of this season and beyond.

Dr. Robert Thompson is expected to perform the procedure next week in St. Louis. The surgery, which would entail removing one of his ribs, is designed to relieve pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the space between the neck and shoulder. The increased pressure caused numbness in his arm and fingers.

HARVEY: Made right choice (Getty)

HARVEY: Made right choice (Getty)

Harvey’s options were surgery or a nerve-blocking injection, the latter being a temporary solution with surgery eventually required.

Harvey’s agent, Scott Boras, whose comments last year on the pitcher’s innings limit created a stir, strongly advocated the surgery to ESPN: “The doctors clearly recommended that he have this done, mainly so that he can be ready for ’17.’

“The rehab on this is six months. Now, if there was a small window of a season, you might be able to take a shot. It’s actually Botox, which relaxes the muscles. That’s not a long-term solution. `The only way this is going to be treated appropriately –  and obviously, we don’t want to do anything to affect next year – is to get this surgically taken care of.”

That’s the understandable driving force behind the decision. This was chosen to set up Harvey for his turn at free agency. Had he chosen the injection and gotten through the season, that would be great. But, if it only lasted a few months and he had the surgery later this year, or in the offseason, or next year, all or most of 2017, could be lost. That would leave Harvey with one year to make an impression on his future suitors when he hits the free agent market after the 2018 season.

And, nobody knows how he’ll pitch coming off surgery. If you’re Harvey – not to mention the Mets or any team that would go after him – you want two years to make an impression. That’s why Harvey’s decision is a no-brainer. But, how does losing Harvey help the Mets the rest of this year?

Knowing the Mets won’t have him in the second half enables GM Sandy Alderson to freely pursue another arm before the July 31 trade deadline, even if it jacks up the asking price. That’s preferable to waiting through at least two Harvey starts before hitting the market late, which would increase the price even more.

This also allows manager Terry Collins to determine his rotation now and eliminates the inevitable questioning and excuse making after each of his starts. And, who would want to see Harvey go down for surgery in a September pennant-race game or the playoffs?

Harvey hasn’t pitched well, going 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts, and this ailment is an obvious explanation. Harvey frequently complained about not having his mechanics, but not having feelings in his arm and fingers could explain a change in mechanics.

However, left unanswered is why Harvey hadn’t complained about a lack of feeling before his disastrous start on Monday. Boras’ answer to that question explains both the good, and bad, about Harvey.

His bulldog approach on the mound, for example, his eight innings in Game 5 of the World Series, is to be applauded. It’s the spirit that defines an ace. That’s the good.

But, here’s the bad, as delivered by Boras.

“He’s felt this way since spring training, but he wanted to gut it out, try to do it, until finally, he’s going, ‘Look, I’m just feeling like I don’t feel the baseball the same.’ Once we heard that, I was like, ‘Maybe we have a TOS situation,’ and got him over to Dr. Thompson.”

Sounds plausible, but it underscores the increasingly, maddening, “I’ll do what I feel like” aspect that has defined Harvey’s short career. It also raises the inevitable question of what could have happened had this been discovered a month or two earlier.

If he had surgery in May or June perhaps he could have come back in late August, or September, or even the playoffs.

We’ll never know.

Jul 06

Three Mets’ Storylines: Harvey Injury Overshadows DeGrom

What many speculated all season finally surfaced in a bad way after Wednesday’s 4-2 victory over Miami with the news Matt Harvey was placed on the 15-day DL with shoulder discomfort. Harvey will be examined by Dr. Robert Thompson in St. Louis on Thursday. He’s the same surgeon who operated on Dillon Gee several years to remove a blood clot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Harvey has a similar issue, but that’s a good place to start.

HARVEY: DL bound. (AP)

HARVEY: DL bound. (AP)

All season, including after his poor performance Monday against the Marlins, Harvey, GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins insisted there was nothing physically wrong with him.

Considering that, this issue might have surfaced Monday when he gave up 11 hits.

However, Harvey said he wasn’t comfortable with his mechanics, but never complained about pain.

All indications from the Mets are this came out of nowhere, but then again Harvey hasn’t always been totally upfront about his arm. He’s also been stubborn about having things his way ranging from not being open about his initial injury in 2013; to resisting surgery; to where he would rehab; his innings limits last year; to coming out of games.

Of course, today’s DL move again raises questions of Harvey’s workload of 216 innings last season after missing 2104 with Tommy John surgery. The Mets didn’t have a definitive innings last year, which his agent Scott Boras didn’t let us forget.

Also to be revisited was how the Mets reduced his spring training workload. This is something Collins attributed to Harvey’s slow start. Don’t forget, as that bad start dragged on, the Mets gave Harvey the options of sorting things out either on the DL or in Port St. Lucie.

He declined both.

The Mets didn’t handle Harvey well last year, and today’s news makes you wonder whether they are handling the bone spur problems with Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz wisely.

Harvey’s injury, plus the questions surrounding Syndergaard and Matz – not to mention Zack Wheeler’s setback – reinforces the importance of what Jacob deGrom gave the Mets Wednesday.

DeGrom is 5-4 and has won two straight following ten consecutive winless starts.

The Mets were to ride all their young arms to a return to the World Series, but all of their starters – outside of Bartolo Colon – have had, or currently have significant health concerns. That’s why deGrom’s seven strong innings – two runs on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts – was the key storyline for the Mets until Harvey rocked their world.

First deGrom, then Harvey, and today’s final storyline was how to divvy up playing time between Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores, both of whom had two hits.

A couple of days ago I suggested a simple plan how to keep Flores in the lineup despite the addition of Reyes, which is to put him in a rotation system along with Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera and James Loney.

Foolproof actually, but apparently not Collins proof. When asked about splitting time between Reyes – who doubled twice – and Flores – who for the second time this homestand homered twice – during the Nationals series, said: “Look, it’s going to be hard to get both guys in there at the same time. One of them is going to have to sit.”

Why?

When the Mets slumped last year, Collins said if a player didn’t hit he would sit. What’s wrong with that approach now?

Cabrera, Walker and Loney all will need to rest. However, I’m afraid Collins is going to let Flores cool off on the bench.

Jun 17

Wright Injury, Lack Of Offense, Could Force Mets To Deal Harvey

I don’t know if we’ll see David Wright will play again for the Mets. I would hope so, but one never knows.

However, what we can be reasonably sure of is we’ll likely never see the Wright who hit at least 26 homers and drove in 100 runs five times in a six-year stretch.

HARVEY: What could he bring in return? (AP)

HARVEY: What could he bring in return? (AP)

The Mets haven’t been hitting for the better part of the last six weeks. Wright and Lucas Duda are on the disabled list. Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes are starting to show breakout signs after being in lengthy slumps.

Don’t forget both Cespedes and Neil Walker can leave after this season. And, we don’t know if the Mets will need to replace Wright, but they will need to add offense. Let’s not limit the offense to power, but the ability to hit with RISP.

Catcher, first base, second base, third base and an outfielder will be on GM Sandy Alderson’s shopping list this winter, and not all of those voids will be filled by free agency.

Given that, it might be time explore dealing one of their young arms. They dealt Zack Wheeler along with Wilmer Flores for Carlos Gomez, but that fell apart.

Once again, this leads to speculation they might be willing to part with Friday’s starter, Matt Harvey, who was so-so against Atlanta after three consecutive strong starts.

Harvey, who worked six innings against the Braves, will be a free agent after the 2018 season. He’s making over $4.3 million this year and is arbitration eligible after the next two seasons, so he has a reasonable contract.

With Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz in the rotation, Wheeler on the disabled list, and the recently drafting pitchers Justin Dunn of Boston College and Anthony Kay of UConn, the Mets seem in good shape with their starting pitching.

And, with the belief his agent, Scott Boras, won’t seek to negotiate early and won’t leave money on the table – the recent deal signed by Steven Strasburg notwithstanding – this might be the time to deal Harvey in need of offense.

That Harvey has pitched well in three of his last four starts _ he gave up four runs in six inning Friday – and has shown he’s healthy after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013 enhances his value.

Depending how the remainder of the season shakes out, dealing Harvey might be something to explore. Seriously.

 

May 20

No Longer Super, But Is Harvey A Supernova?

UPDATED: Reflecting he’ll make next start.

Prior to Matt Harvey‘s start against Stephen Strasburg at Citi Field Thursday night was the obvious question in the wake of the latter’s $175-million contract extension to bypass free agency.

However, after Harvey was ripped last night, 9-1, by Strasburg and the Nationals, red flags continue to fly.

After speculation he might be skipped in the rotation for his next start, manager Terry Collins said Harvey would make his next appearance.

Considering Harvey gave up nine runs in 2.2 innings Thursday against Washington, it’s easy to understand why the question was raised.

HARVEY: What next? (AP)

HARVEY: What next? (AP)

Harvey had no answers other than to say he’s still searching.

The booing Harvey endured might have been the worst he has ever heard. It even prompted the story Bryce Harper felt pity towards him, which is the last thing Harvey would want.

There was a sharp contrast between Harvey and Strasburg last night, and nobody was thinking about the original question.

Both are young pitchers carrying a huge potential check to be cashed; both had Tommy John surgery; and both have Scott Boras as an agent, one with a hard-boiled reputation of exploring the market and not leaving much – if anything – on the table.

If Strasburg got $175 million, what would Harvey earn after the 2018 season?

In anticipating the future market, it wouldn’t be hard to image a figure north of $200 million, perhaps as high as $225 million. Considering that, wouldn’t the prudent thing be to sign Harvey long-term now?

Whatever Harvey might get, it would pay for lots of clubbing, supermodels and Rangers games. However, to get all that, Harvey needs to win lots of games. I advocated for the Mets to lock up their young arms, beginning with Harvey. After he labored against the Rockies, I wrote it was premature to give up on him.

I advocated the Mets lock up their young arms, beginning with Harvey. After he labored against the Rockies, I wrote that was now premature. But, as long as he’s healthy, and he insists he is, Harvey is too valuable to abandon. However, if you’re the Mets you can’t blame them if they don’t do anything currently with Harvey.

Harvey might be healthy, but he could also turn out to be a supernova that has burned as bright and hot as he’ll ever be.

Nobody wants to believe that, but when you’re dealing with $200-million contracts, you must consider all the possibilities.

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