Is Now the Time to Extend Matt Harvey?

Back in 2014, Jaime Garcia had surgery to have a rib removed in order to alleviate his thoracic outlet syndrome.  He came back about a year after the surgery was performed, and he had a strong 2015 season going 10-6 with a 2.43 ERA and a 1.049 WHIP in 20 starts.  So far this year, he has struggled a bit with a 7-6 record with a 3.98 ERA and a 1.363 WHIP in 19 starts.  On the whole, it would be fair to say Garcia is a success story for players who have had surgery to alleviate their thoracic outlet syndrome.

His former Cardinals teammate, Chris Carpenter, was not as lucky.  He would have the surgery in 2012, and he would never be able to return.  Now, there are a world of differences between Garcia and Carpenter, and this is probably too simplistic a conclusion, but overall the Cardinals franchise has had a 50% success rate in pitchers returning from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery.

Fact of the matter is, we still don’t know enough to know how a pitcher will return from the surgery.  For every Kenny Rogers, there is a Jeremy Bonderman.  There is the Garcias and the Matt Harrisons of the world who have returned to initially pitch well after the surgery only to see their future performance regress.  Overall, there are a lot of question marks about not only how successful the surgery is in restoring a pitcher to full health, but also what the lasting effects of the surgery is.  This is the point where Matt Harvey is right now.

With Harvey having the surgery, he missed the remainder of the 2016 season, but really he missed more.  Harvey wasn’t right throughout the 2016 season.  Accordingly, the Mets missed out on a real chance to challenge for the division, and for his part, Harvey missed out on his chance to build off of a strong 2015 season that culminated in his great Game 5 World Series start.  While the surgery was successful, and Harvey has been reportedly been long tossing and looks ready to start the 2017 season.  What Harvey will be in 2017 still remains a mystery.

In 2013, Harvey helped make the Mets a much more relevant franchise being a Cy Young contender and staring the All Star Game before his succumbing to a UCL tear requiring Tommy John surgery.  Last year, Harvey was part of a starting rotation that led the Mets to not only winning the National League East, but also the pennant.  The Mets are a better team with him in the rotation, and they will be a better team going forward with a healthy Harvey in the fold.  The question is not only if he will be healthy, but also for how long will he be effective?  These are the questions hanging over the heads of both Harvey and the Mets organization.

The Mets could let Harvey work his way back from the surgery and hopefully return to form ext year when he will be 28 years old.  From there, they could let him pitch for a year and a half before determining whether they want to open the pocketbooks to make Harvey the pitcher they want to extend.  It might be the prudent way to go.  However, it could also prove to be the expensive route as well.

Realistically speaking, there may be no better opportunity for the Mets to discuss an extension with Harvey.  Given his previous comments on the matter and the uncertainty of his future, Harvey may be more open to a contract extension now than he ever was or will ever be.  Scott Boras may not prove to be an impediment as evidenced by the Stephen Strasburg extension with the Washington Nationals.  There may be an opportunity here.

As we have seen, the strength of this Mets team is pitching.  When healthy, the rotation of Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz helps overcome the Mets offensive issues.  This is a rotation that helped the Mets go to the World Series last year.  However, this is a rotation that may ultimately need to be broken up as arbitration and free agency may prove too costly to keep them all together.  If you make a move on Harvey now, you would most likely get him at a discount thereby allowing you to allocate that money towards a deGrom or a Syndergaard.  With that in mind, the Mets may be best suited to rolling the dice and making a move to keep Harvey for the long term.