Watching Stephen Strasburg pitch on Monday night, part of the Monday Night Baseball telecast on ESPN, he wasn’t as sharp against the Detroit Tigers as he had been against his previous two opponents, the Kansas City Royals and the St. Louis Cardinals.
But to quote rapper Jay Z, Strasburg has “99 problems” but a new contract ain’t one.
The news of Strasburg’s brand new contract, seven-years for $175 million including two opt-outs, was bandied about on Twitter during the telecast, and was first reported by The Washington Post. It’s curious that the Washington Nationals would have this leak during his start, as news would surely seep across the entire stadium from fans clutching closely to their smart phones.
Maybe that explains why Strasburg wasn’t his normal sharp self Monday night, surrendering four runs on six hits and three walks, giving up a pair of two-run home runs to Nick Castellanos and J.D. Martinez. He might’ve had, oh I don’t know, 175 million things on his mind during his start. However, Strasburg did pitch seven innings, and had his third double-digit strikeout performance of the season, whiffing eleven.
How does this all relate to the New York Mets? After all, this is the Mets fan site where we all come from our daily dose of news and notes of all things orange and blue. The simple answer is Matt Harvey.
Since Game 5 of the 2015 World Series concluded, fans and media alike have pondered whether Harvey would stay with the Mets once he hits free agency after the 2018 season. Some thought that trading Harvey for a haul of talented and young prospects in similar fashion to what the Atlanta Braves did with Shelby Miller would be the best course of action.
For the moment, Harvey is ours, and still working to break out of the early season funk he’s been stuck in, although his last start on May 8th against the San Diego Padres offered some reassurance that he was slowly coming out of whatever was ailing him, be it mechanics or any physical strain that might’ve been left over from the 200 plus innings he threw last year.
Like Strasburg, Harvey is a Scott Boras client, and Boras clients very rarely elude free agency to sign extensions with their current teams. Of course there are exceptions, with the likes of Carlos Gonzalez and Jered Weaver to name a few.
For his part, Harvey said in early February that he’d be open to discussing a contract extension with the Mets, if it were to come up with the front office.
“I think whatever comes up is going to come up,” Harvey said. “I think I’ve never shied away from it. I’ve never said I wouldn’t consider it.”
The question remains whether the Mets are better served trying to hash out an early extension deal now with their 27-year-old right-hander, hoping to take advantage of some early struggles and get him possibly a bit cheaper than if they wait and he’s back to his old form.
If they wait until Harvey hits free agency, one would assume that he’d be back on track and barring any health issues, have performed like the Harvey of old. Factoring in that he’ll be pitching in postseason games and showcasing his talents on the biggest of stages the next few years, it will send his stock soaring as long as he performs, which will earn him even more zeros on his big payday.
And of course the Mets would be leaving themselves out there to compete with 29 other ball-clubs for Harvey’s services. And two clubs that can be counted on to show significant interest in him are the two teams that he was situated in between growing up in Mystic, Connecticut, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.
There’s also the thought of trading Harvey, considering that with Strasburg off the table for the 2016-17 free agency, not many big namepitchers are going to be available, unless R.A. Dickey, Brett Anderson, Andrew Cashner, or Mat Latos do it for you. Having Harvey available in the off-season could generate a big haul for the Mets, even with his struggles in April. All he needs is a few good months and strong postseason starts to escalate him back into the conversation as one of the best starting pitchers in the game.
And with the emergence of Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz taking the next steps into becoming bona fide aces in their own right, the Mets have a strong rotation before even mentioning Harvey’s name. Maybe it would behoove the Mets to explore what Harvey could fetch in a deal, especially since the team who would trade for him would still get two years of control before he hits free agency. That would potentially net the Mets even more in a trade.
The Strasburg extension is the largest deal ever given to a post Tommy John surgery player, which bodes well for Harvey. The difference however, is that Strasburg has had success and been relatively healthy since he missed most of 2011. He was an All Star in 2012, and was in the top 10 in Cy Young voting in 2014. Harvey had a fantastic 2015 season, his first year back after the surgery. But teams might want to make sure that Harvey has no year after affect, after eclipsing the 180-inning threshold that he was presumed to have last year.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Strasburg extension plays into potential Harvey talks, or if it even does at all. Maybe the Mets accept the fact that Harvey will walk to the highest bidder in 2018, or that they’ll explore deals in the off-season to replenish their system. Whatever the future holds, as long as Harvey stays healthy, he’ll be seeing a big payday for himself, whether that’s with the team that drafted him in 2010 or not remains to be seen.