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Yankees potential trade target: Matt Harvey

Is it time for the Dark Knight to rise from the shadows and return to Gotham?

Cincinnati Reds v Los Angeles Dodgers
Now just picture a cape
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Back in 2015, the Mets stood on top of the world. It’s funny to think about now that the Mets have crashed back to a caricature of themselves, but at that time things looked bright for them. Yoenis Cespedes carried their offense on his back en route to the World Series, and with the help of their rotation, the future held promise. To top it all off, Matt Harvey served as the staff ace.

Harvey ushered in the Mets’ return to relevance. He led a much-discussed rotation that was supposed to anchor the team for years to come. Then, the fall from grace happened. Game Five of the 2015 World Series represented the beginning of the end for Harvey’s career with the Mets. He pitched eight shutout innings with the Mets on the brink of elimination. Then it all came tumbling down in the ninth. The Mets eventually lost the game and the series.

After struggling at the start of the 2016 season, doctors diagnosed Harvey with thoracic outlet syndrome; he ended up missing most of the season. Although he returned in 2017, he just could not get back on track. He wasn’t pitching well, reports of his partying surfaced, and Harvey became Public Enemy No. 1 in Queens. His struggles carried over in 2018, which led the Mets to move him into the bullpen. The team then designated Harvey for assignment after he refused a minor league assignment. The Dark Knight had fallen.

Desperate for help, the Reds picked Harvey up. In exchange, they traded catcher Devin Mesoraco to the Mets along with cash considerations. The Reds immediately put Harvey into the starting rotation and the results have been mostly positive.

It’s no secret that the Yankees need starting pitching. In an ideal world, the team would go out and get an ace like Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard. In a realistic world, however, the chances of the Bombers acquiring them are extremely slim. The Mets probably won’t trade either of them, let alone to the Yankees. If they are willing to trade either, the cost associated would probably be too high for Brian Cashman to agree. So it stands to reason that the Yankees should also look at other options.

No matter what, the need for pitching persists. Unfortunately, the options out there just are not great. It’s fine if the Yankees focus on J.A. Happ or Cole Hamels, but the truth is both have struggled recently. Neither would represent more than a warm body to eat innings. The Angels apparently want to keep both Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs, which leaves the Yankees without many options. Enter: Matt Harvey.

I know how absurd this idea sounds on the surface, but I don’t believe it’s that absurd. Sure, there exist concerns about his partying and lifestyle that may not mesh well in the current clubhouse atmosphere, but Harvey’s also in a walk year. I won’t pretend to know what motivates him, but if he’s hoping to secure a good deal this winter, it behooves Harvey to stay on his best behavior and help a World Series contender.

The other, and more important, question is: Can he actually help the Yankees? His numbers have downward-spiraled since 2015, but there’s evidence to suggest the Dark Knight is rising. In his first six starts with the Reds, Harvey had a few decent outings, but was mostly the same pitcher he had been recently with the Mets. He surrendered seven home runs, 18 runs total, and pitched to a 5.04 ERA with a 5.45 FIP. His 17.9% HR/FB was downright ugly.

In his six starts since then, it’s been a different story. During this time, he’s only allowed 10 runs. His ERA and FIP dropped down to 2.38 and 2.64, respectively. From his first six starts to his last six, Harvey also increased his groundball percentage from 40.4% up to 49%. That’s a big jump to go along with the fact that he did not allow a home run in his last six starts. There’s reason to believe that this change is for real.

In those first six games, Harvey’s four-seam fastball averaged about 94.6 mph. In his last six, he averaged around 95.15 mph and even hit 97 mph a few times. According to Ron Wolschleger of Beyond the Box Score, this could just be a result of building arm strength and getting healthy, but the uptick in velocity seems to stem from some small, mechanical adjustments Harvey has made. From his shoulder positioning, to where his hand starts in his glove, to where he lands, the results have been positive thus far.

If the Yankees are serious about acquiring starting pitching, Harvey may not be the most far-fetched idea in the world. It’s understandable to be cautious at the prospect of the Yankees going after Harvey. Questions loom, but there are signs of a turnaround.

Outside of a bonafide ace like deGrom or Syndergaard, Harvey probably has the most potential out there. He’s certainly more exciting than Happ or Hamels. His recent history and the fact that he’s a free agent at the end of the year, should also drive his price down. The idea of him pitching well for the Yankees would also break Mets fans hearts, an added bonus.

In a world where the options are slim, giving the Dark Knight a chance to return to Gotham might make the most sense.

*Season statistics provided courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and Brooks Baseball.