On Friday, the Reds and Brewers failed to work out a deal for Matt Harvey highlighting the Brewers’ inability to acquire starting pitching and the Reds’ inability to trade players before it’s too late. When the Reds traded Devin Mesoraco to the Mets for Harvey earlier in the year, the reason that made sense was that if Harvey bounced back, he could be flipped in a trade. While Harvey is still a shadow of his former self, he’s had a decent year since coming to the Reds. Since joining Cincinnati, he’s allowed 46 runs in 95 2/3 innings for a 4.16 ERA. He could have provided depth for a contending team that’s been going through starters like potato chips.
So a trade with the Brewers made all the sense in the world. The Brewers have been in desperate need of starting pitching. Chase Anderson’s ERA is a full run higher than it was last year (not to mention he’s outperforming his FIP by a run and a half). Jimmy Nelson and Zach Davies are both dealing with injuries. Brent Suter is out with Tommy John. The Brewers have depended on Jhoulys Chacin and Wade Miley out-pitching their peripherals. Chacin has had solid results despite a 10.7 K-BB percentage. Miley has been even worse in that category at 4.8 percent while somehow pitching to a 2.18 ERA.
Harvey wouldn’t have fixed everything in the Brewers’ rotation, but he would have provided options for Milwaukee’s playoff push. Now, it doesn’t appear that Milwaukee is the reason the deal fell through. Without knowing what the Brewers were offering, it’s hard to fault them for being too stingy, though it’s not a good look after failing to add a starter at the non-waiver trade deadline. The Harvey deal falling through might not have been their fault, but the Brewers had a glaring hole they needed to fill, and they failed to do so. They’re quickly running out of options to bolster their rotation before September.
Cincinnati, apparently, didn’t want to pull the trigger because the front office has grown attached to Harvey.
I’m not sure if this was the deciding factor in the #Reds hanging onto Matt Harvey after the #Brewers claimed him. But word is that owner Bob Castellini “loves” Harvey, who has done a nice job of rehabilitating his image as a teammate in Cincinnati. Harvey is staying put.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) August 24, 2018
Sources: ultimately, reds owner bob castellini did not want to trade matt harvey. which may well mean reds try to sign him as a free agent— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) August 24, 2018
Before the Mets DFA’d Harvey earlier in the year, Sandy Alderson issued a rather scathing (and hilarious) comment regarding Harvey. The final straw for Harvey in New York was apparently that the front office didn’t like him and now, Reds ownership is so fond of him that they can’t bear to say goodbye.
The Reds have a bit of a reputation for holding onto players too long before trading them. They waited a bit too long on Brandon Phillips and Aroldis Chapman. They still haven’t traded Billy Hamilton. Now they’re doing the same with Harvey.
It’s possible the Reds weren’t enamored of the Brewers package for him, but even if the Brewers offered nothing for him and simply took his salary, it would have made sense. Harvey doesn’t help the Reds for the rest of the season, and he’s a free agent at the end of the year, so even if Cincinnati traded him they would still have an opportunity to get him.
It’s not entirely clear why the Reds would want to hang onto Harvey following this year anyway. Harvey will be 30 next year, so even if he had gone through a normal career trajectory, his best years are behind him.
Harvey could potentially help a team win in 2019, but the Reds are still a long shot at contention. Their offense hasn’t been too bad. As a team, they’re at a 98 wRC+. That’s as good or better than the Nationals, Brewers, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Phillies, and Rockies. But even with Harvey, the Reds still have one of the worst pitching staffs in the majors. Their ERA- of 116 is fifth worst in the majors. Perhaps Luis Castillo bounces back or Anthony DeSclafani pitches to his potential, but the Reds still seem intent on giving Homer Bailey innings. It’s hard to see this team with this pitching staff with or without Harvey.
Harvey was never going to be part of the next good Reds team, but he wasn’t supposed to be part of the next Reds team period. The Reds got what they were hoping for when they acquired Harvey in May, but they made the one mistake you’re not supposed to make. They fell in love.
Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score, McCovey Chronicles, and BP Wrigleyville. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords.