By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) New York Mets right-hander Matt Harvey is a mess right now. His superficial numbers are bad, he’s but a shadow of the Dark Knight ace who once reigned at Citi Field and his personal life has begun to muck up the professional.
Harvey was suspended for three games by the team over the weekend after he failed to show up for the game Saturday. His initial excuse was a headache he had developed while golfing earlier Saturday, plus some miscommunication with the Mets. The Mets sent representatives from the team to check on him, seemingly not buying his story (which suggests where the relationship between him and team was at to begin with). Harvey’s agent indicated that they’d be filing a grievance over the undeserved suspension. Later, Harvey copped to partying Friday night until 4 a.m. the following morning and apologized privately to teammates and publicly Tuesday for his actions.
“I’m extremely embarrassed,” Harvey said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s completely my fault. I put myself in a bad place to be ready for showing up for a ballgame, and that is my responsibility. I take full blame for that.”
Since then, the New York Post’s Page Six has reported that Harvey was drowning some sorrows last Friday stretching from days of recent heartbreak.
The ‘Dark Knight’ became an emotional wreck on May 2, after paparazzi photos came out showing Adriana Lima stepping from a limo and heading into Rihanna’s Met Gala afterparty with her former boyfriend, NFL star Julian Edelman … Apparently, Harvey was unaware that Lima was just not as into their relationship as he was.
As silly as all that might sound, the strain in the clubhouse regarding Harvey is supposedly pretty serious. Multiple teammates expressed a certain satisfaction to Newsday with the Harvey suspension, as though it was a long time coming.
So the Mets got drama, and it centers at the moment around the former ace who will now be extra-scrutinized as the season goes on. Talk of needing to send him to the minors or to trade him have already bubbled up.
Let’s bring it back here to Chicago, where the Cubs haven’t played their best baseball of late. Much of their struggles are traced to sketchy starting pitching, a bedrock of their World Series championship year. The Brett Anderson experiment seems to have run the course of the scientific method, and Mike Montgomery is currently being stretched into a possible rotation role. Eddie Butler, currently at Triple-A Iowa, could soon be given a shot to make a mark. The team has already floated a likelihood of needing a sixth starter as the second half of May gives them no days off.
I’m not at panic mode with the Cubs yet, but they’re clearly messing with my head, and here’s how. So say Butler is no better than Anderson and/or Montgomery is too crucial as a long man in the bullpen if and when various starters continue to fail to eat innings. Why not pick up the phone with the Mets regarding Harvey?
I’ve little tangible evidence that the Harvey as a Cub would be great. Besides the obvious issues shown by ERA, Travis Sawchick at Fangraphs noted a week ago:
A month into the season, the right-hander now owns a 5.14 ERA and even worse 5.75 FIP. He’s striking out a paltry 13.5% of batters while walking 8.8% — not even a five-point difference. Here, the sake of context, are Harvey’s K-BB% marks over the last four seasons: 23.2% (2013), 20% (2015), 12.7% (2016) and 4.7% (2017).
Ick, right? But Sawchick also points out that Harvey hasn’t mixed up his pitches too much to compensate for velocity issues. Harvey’s fastball dipped to 92 mph in spring training but has ticked up to 94 of late, which is still a career-low.
The Cubs and pitching coach Chris Bosio are kind of known for taking new approaches to young-ish reclamation pitching projects. Jake Arrieta and allowing him to throw a cutter would be the focal point of that braggery.
Harvey is 28 years old and signed through 2018. He has a salary of $5.1 million this year and arbitration looming this offseason. A change of scenery — not a tangible measurable, I know — perhaps would clear his head. The reality of being traded for being an ass maybe kicks him in his enough to wake up. And maybe a veteran staff with Arrieta, Jon Lester and John Lackey helps wake him up, too. Working with Bosio and being around a loose-but-responsible clubhouse at Wrigley Field perhaps could “fix” whatever the physical or mental issues with Harvey are. Maybe if Harvey can be statistically a decent fifth starter as the weather warms and the Cubs bats begin to explode as they totally will, then you patch a hole on the long march back to the postseason.
The Cubs have a bunch of trade chips on the farm, and if Mets general manager Sandy Alderson is frazzled enough with Harvey and what his presence in the New York might continue to mean — it may get worse before it gets better — maybe Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer can swing one of those retrospective bargains they’ve become known for.
Sawchick also argues that right now is too early to consider trading Harvey because his value is so low at the moment, which feels like a pounce-able situation for the Cubs. It wouldn’t take something like a Javy Baez or Jeimer Candelario or Ian Happ, and if the Mets are set on names like that, you hang up and move on with no skin lost.
Again, I’m not going to panic about the Cubs any time soon, but I’m not necessarily comfortable with their pitching situation either. Looking into trading for Harvey, whose recently poor numbers aren’t due to age and therefore suggest a fixable capacity, could be a low-risk/high -reward move that we giggle about five months from now.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.