Will Mets Pay To Keep Matt Harvey?
From loyal MetsToday reader “DanB,” posted in the comments section:
Clayton Kershaw signs for 7 yrs, $30+ million per year. Does this mean Harvey’s days are numbered? Even more importantly, does it mean young quality pitching is no longer the cheap way to build a contending team? Is the keystone theory in the Met’s development no longer as valid? Or are the Dodgers the exception? Should the Mets had invested in young hitters, instead? Does anyone think the Mets are ever going to pay one of their aces over $25 million/year?
A few things to address here.
First off, we’re assuming that Matt Harvey is going to come back from Tommy John surgery and pitch like he did during most of 2013, and do it for at least three years — because that’s what Kershaw has done: dominated as arguably the best pitcher in the NL (or at least, among the top 3) for four years running.
Secondly, Harvey won’t be eligible for free agency until 2018 (if I’m wrong about that, and I could be, please correct in the comments). So, the Mets wouldn’t have to worry about signing Harvey to a long-term deal until at least 2017. But, Scott Boras is his agent, so there’s less chance of Harvey going that route. If Harvey comes back in 2015 and dominates, and continues to dominate through 2017, there’s little chance he’ll pass at the opportunity to offer his services on the open market. By then, will the Mets be under the same ownership? Will they be coming off back-to-back World Series championships, that resulted in 8 million fans crashing through Citi Field’s gates? Will the stadium be renamed Google Park by then, a renaming that would include a windfall of cash? Who knows?
As for Dan’s other question: “…does it mean young quality pitching is no longer the cheap way to build a contending team?”
My opinion is that Kershaw’s contract makes stockpiling young arms all the more a solid strategy, because as long as the cost of developed, veteran MLB pitchers continues to rise, a team needs to have and utilize pitchers while they’re still relatively cheap. It’s a plan followed most obviously by the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays — both teams draft and develop young hurlers, and trade them away just before the pitchers are about to cash in on big-dollar, long-term contracts. It’s a much cheaper alternative to buying or trading for established veteran pitchers. That said, if Mets ownership remains as-is, and attendance doesn’t improve dramatically in the next 3-4 years, I can see the Mets either trading away Harvey (assuming he’s in line for a big contract), or letting him walk via free agency. It’s not much different from what they did with Jose Reyes, and, to a lesser degree, R.A. Dickey. One can argue that what was done with Reyes and Dickey had more to do with the Mets rebuilding process, but in the end, it was mostly about finances, and if the Mets’ revenues and financial state don’t change considerably, I don’t know how they’d be able to afford to sign anyone to massive, long-term deals. I’m not saying they won’t suddenly generate remarkably better cash flow than they have in the past several years — I can’t predict the future — I’m only suggesting that if economics remain status quo, we’re unlikely to see the Mets giving anyone a $200M+ contract.
But that’s my take. What do YOU think? Answer in the comments.