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.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. blastingzone January 17, 2014 at 7:45 am
    If the mets are not going to sign Harvey to a long term deal
    by 2018 they will trade him just like Dickey! They learned
    a lession from Reyes which is to trade a player if he’s in his walk year and get something of value back before you
    lose him for nothing, but they will sign Harvey to a long term deal because if Harvey becomes the pitcher we all
    believe he will be you don’t trade this generations Tom
    Seaver! What worries me more is will the mets be able to resign Wheeler who will not be far behind Harvey in free agency and Syndergaard to new long term deals as well
    so the mets can keep the best starting three some in base
  2. DaveSchneck January 17, 2014 at 9:46 am
    Your first point is dead on and is routinely overlooked. While TJ is very successful, Harvey’s dominance hasn’t even equated to a full season, and it may have been the result of max effort/overthorwing that cannot be sustained. It will be quite some time before we know if he can be viewed as an elite pitcher going forward.

    While I am attached to Harvey as a Met fan, I do think the Tampa Bay model has some benefits, and not just to teams with no money. Most FAs tend to get paid for what they did, not what they will do, and given the nature of pitching, there is more risk and uncertainty giving pitchers the big deals. If the feed system is really strong, let someone else take the big risk. The developing team has 6 years of control, and in cases of the high price guys, no reason to “buy out” arb years and assume risk unless the price is very reasonable. Buying out a guy’s arb years at $30 mil doesn’t seem reasonable to me,

    I agree as well with your last point – despite the lack of big bats these days, I would still focus on pitching and defense. Unless they change the rules, good pitching beats good hitting more often than not.

  3. CleonJames January 17, 2014 at 10:41 am
    Was the messiah, soon a pariah?
    Was the franchise, soon to be excised?
    Was headed for MVP, soon to be PNG?

    A pitcher is not without honor,
    save at his own field.

  4. BklynCowpoke January 17, 2014 at 4:10 pm
    My take on the Harvey situation is this…. Even before finishing the season with an injury, he was talking about a 200 million dollar payday. Assuming he regains his 2003 early season form, I am going to put my money on his leaving the Mets at first opportunity to whomever will give him the most money. So I say to Mets fans, don’t invest too much money in a Harvey jersey.
  5. Dan B January 17, 2014 at 7:53 pm
    I agree with B.cowpoke in that if you listen to Harvey, he has stated the desire to be one of the top paid players. The drive to be the best is often related to the drive to be recognized as one of the best.
    But the point is does a team need to pay $25 million plus for an ace? Would they be better off spreading that money over the whole pitching staff? I have always felt pitching is a bit overvalued. Well rounded teams win championships.
    I also get the feeling ownership and the players union need to keep an eye on this. If players hit free agency sooner then teams couldn’t stockpile young pitching. Players would get paid closer to their true value.
  6. Jason M. January 18, 2014 at 6:47 pm
    Ehh. Way too soon to worry about this. Harvey has made 36 MLB starts, and won exactly 12 of them, meaning A) he’s on a bad team and B) can’t last long enough into starts to get the lead to the closer, and thus puts a burden on the Mets’ perenially awful middlemen.

    It’s way to soon to be putting him on a Kershaw level. He already has bad mechanics, leading to his major injury. He’s on a franchise that so regularly misdiagnoses and mistreats players that you’d almost think they were intentionally trying to shorten careers. And… he’s only won 12 games.

    When he’s done what Kershaw has done, unmitigated brilliance over a 5-year stretch (AND an abysmal playoff record to boot), then we can talk about ponying up the $300M it would take to keep him (and lose NLCS games), at that theoretical point in his far-distant career.

    • CleonJames January 20, 2014 at 12:56 pm
      Hi Jason I didn’t realize that kershaw did poorly in the post season. If true, it does further argue against paying $25M per year unless he’s a true “money” pitcher.

      In terms of 12 wins in 36 starts, with a good offense he easily could have won 24 of those, or with somewhat better relieving. He goes deep enough to win on above average teams.

  7. argonbunnies January 18, 2014 at 7:10 pm
    It might be worth taking advantage of his taste of baseball mortality to try to lock him up now.
    • Dan42 January 19, 2014 at 4:59 pm
      Since he’s not arb eligible until 16, and a FA in 19 he is really “locked up” until then, without risking whatever it would take to keep him up to and after those points.