It has been reported that the Mets have reached an agreement to trade Matt Harvey to the Reds in exchange for Devin Mesoraco. They are trading salaries as well, as the Reds will pick up the remainder of the $13.1 million owed to Mesoraco, while the Mets will pay the rest of the $5.6 million owed to Harvey. Both players will be free agents after this season.
Harvey has not been the same since his surgery to resolve thoracic outlet syndrome in 2016, and last season he had a 6.80 RA9 and was a sub-replacement level player while striking out too few and walking too many. This year he has been even worse. He had a 6.00 RA9 over four starts. His demotion to the bullpen did not help, either. He had a 10.50 RA9 over four relief appearances.
This past Friday it was announced that the Mets had designated Matt Harvey for assignment. He reportedly refused a demotion to the minors to try and work things out, and combined with some of his off field issues, the Mets did what they felt they had to do. Harvey was unplayable as is.
In 2014, Mesoraco was one of the best catchers in baseball. He hit .273/.359/.534 that year, good for a 147 wRC+. That season got him a four-year, $28 million extension. It was back loaded with almost half that amount paid this year. The Reds are probably regretting that decision.
Sadly, injuries have wrecked Mesoraco’s career. Even in 2014 he played only 114 games, which is actually the most games he has ever played in a season. He played in only 95 games total in the subsequent three years. He was one of the worst hitters in baseball over the first two years of his extension, though to be fair, he barely played. Last year, he hit .213/.321/.390 over 56 games, which is not bad for a catcher. He is hitting worse than that so far this season, hitting .220/.289/.341. With all the time that Mesoraco has missed in recent years, it is hard to say what his true talent is. However, his 4.4% walk rate, which is approximately half of his career rate, is troubling.
I heavily expected the Mets to have to outright cut Harvey. At the very least they would get no more than an end of the bench guy. With how little leverage the Mets had, it is surprising that they were able to get a player like Mesoraco and without having to pay extra in salary. Not only is that a good return for a pitcher who appears to need time in the minors, it actually fills a need for the Mets, too.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the Mets’ catcher problems that came as a result of Travis d’Arnaud going down with Tommy John surgery and Kevin Plawecki landing on the DL. I suggested J.T. Realmuto as the best option, and short of that, even taking a chance on Blake Swihart. I declined to suggest Mesoraco due to his injury history, but it is a good option given what they are paying in talent. Mets’ catchers have hit a combined .161/.271/.241 with only one home run this season. Their .241 wOBA is the worst in the National League. Even if Mesoraco does not improve at the plate, he will still be a big upgrade. The biggest question will be whether or not he will healthy enough to provide that upgrade.
I like this trade better for the Mets, but despite Harvey’s immense struggles over a year now, I would not peg the Reds as “losers” in this trade. The Reds are rebuilding, Mesoraco was not going to be part of their future, and Harvey needs a change of scenery about as badly as any player I have ever seen.
I am guessing that the Reds are hoping to fix Harvey in order flip him at the trade deadline. Mesoraco likely has the higher floor, but we all saw Harvey’s ceiling once upon a time. If the Reds can turn Harvey into even just a back end starter, he will return more at the deadline than Mesoraco would. There is certainly the risk that Harvey will continue to cease to be a major league quality pitcher, but it is all upside for the Reds.
The Mets fill an important need, and the Reds get a chance to improve their rebuild. The trade works for both teams.
. . .
Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.