The Angels finally made their first real splash of the off-season by signing former Mets star pitcher Matt Harvey. Harvey faced a tumultuous career with the Mets after blowing the MLB away with 3 seasons of sub 3 ERA pitching (2012/2013/2015).
Following those impeccable seasons Harvey began to fall off at a drastic rate, posting a 4.86 ERA in less than a hundred innings in 2016 followed by a 6.70 ERA in 2017. While there is strong potential for a resurgent 2019 season there also lies the chance that this could be another critical failure for the LA Angels.
There is already more than plenty of discussion revolving around the 1yr/11mil deal Harvey signed with the Angels, which also includes 3mil worth of incentives. This is a rather friendly contract that sees little risk with the potential for high reward, as Harvey will just be turning 30 during the 2019 season. Harvey is not too far removed from his All-Star caliber years of 2012-2015, in regards to time, but regarding his mental state he may be a lifetime removed from those years.
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Matt Harvey has had a troubled career as of yet. Despite his 3 amazing seasons through 2012-2015 (Harvey missed 2014 with TJ surgery) Harvey saw his ability fall off drastically starting in 2016. Coupled with his poor performances through 2016-2018 were the stories of Harveys personal issues off the field, which seemingly went hand in hand with his on the field performance. His off the field issues culminated in a suspension handed down by the Mets in 2017.
The Mets decided to cut ties with Harvey and ship him off to the Reds during the 2018 season and pitched 128 innings of 4.50 ERA baseball. Even with it being clear his personal life affected his ball-playing the Angels are still looking at Harvey as a reclamation project which may pay off in divedends. However this isn’t the first time the Angels have taken on a reclamation and seeing it fall through their hands terribly. Back in 2013 the Angels signed former Texas Rangers superstar Josh Hamilton to a long-term deal despite his troubled past.
Even though Hamilton slugged 43 HR’s the season prior there was the question of his off the field issues and how long they would stay managed. Hamilton was a recovered addict who found himself in hot water with the Rangers after knowledge of his drug/party benders became public. Although Hamilton was sober there was a lingering question of how the city of Los Angeles would affect his recovery with many saying that the city was a bad place for him to be. It was no surprise then to see Josh Hamilton crumble under public pressure due to poor performance which inevitably pushed him into a relapse.
The Hamilton contract was a disaster for the Angels who let him go only 2 years into the 5 year deal Hamilton signed. This question unfortunately has to come up again, but will the city of Los Angeles be a bad place for Matt Harvey, an athlete who needs to be kept on the straight and narrow?
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Harvey has gotten in hot water with partying in Los Angeles during his time with the Mets, but really the biggest concern isn’t the presence of the city, but whether or not he cares enough to keep himself straight. Given the nature of his deal with the Angels, being only one year, there isn’t too much danger with this deal. At worst the Angels will see Harvey DFA’ed somewhere around mid-late season after a short stretch in the bullpen that amounts to little. The problem with this worst-case scenario is the Angels needing Harvey to find at least moderate success, if he flames out completely there really isn’t anyone behind him that can cover the job.
The real danger with this Harvey deal is the alarming lack of reliable depth behind it. The Angels don’t have to luxury of moving Harvey out of the starting rotation when they have no depth to cover potential failure on his part. The only way to allay this danger is by continuing to make moves for more pitchers and create depth that can cover for pitchers like Harvey. Without that depth there is too much pressure on success and potential for failure and it’s not reasonable to expect a blowback from this lack of depth. There is absolutely zero room for failure here and in baseball building a team around that is a recipe for disaster.
There is still a lot of upside to this deal, namely the potential for Harvey to reclaim some of that 2012-2015 supremacy. Change of organization is a good way to help a player feel as if they’re getting a fresh start. After being sent to the Reds, Matt Harvey pitched at least 5 innings in 19 of his starts, that kind of in-game longevity is something the Angels were painfully desperate for last season. It should also be noted that his fastball velocity is ticking back up to above-average levels; with the Mets Harvey averaged a 92 mph fastball, but with the Reds Harvey averaged 94 while topping out at 99. Mechanically there is a lot of reason to believe he can be good again, at the very least.
Especially with the support of an organization who doesn’t see you as a distraction, but an asset for success. When surrounded by guys like Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani there is going to be an aura of excellence that Harvey can immerse himself in. Talent like that tends to rub off on others; if not because of the competitive nature of the athlete to be as good as the environment around him than for the leadership offering greater mental support.
There is a plethora of factors within this Matt Harvey deal, and while it may seem the factors going against him are stronger and greater in number all it takes is a single click for Harvey to realize his better self. It just takes one moment that clicks with Harvey in order to keep him straight, and though the Angels have faltered in this regard with other players that doesn’t mean this will end in a similar fashion.
No amount of speculation will bring us to any conclusion that offers any significant weight. The question of “Can he?” cannot be overpowered by analysis of any sort, no matter how well thought out. We can only sit here and wait for baseball to come back in order to see how it resonates with Matt Harvey, but at the very least we can be grateful that Matt Harvey will attempt to find his better self with the assistance of the Los Angeles Angels.