On Monday, seemingly out of nowhere, the Mets, Matt Harvey, and the fans all received a strong punch to the gut. When it was reported that Harvey had a partially torn UCL in his pitching elbow, the news was so shocking and severe that it seemed almost impossible to believe. I woke up yesterday thinking it was a bad dream. It wasn’t.
At this point, it’s still unclear whether or not Harvey will have to undergo Tommy John Surgery to repair the injury. If he does, it would likely cost him most, if not all of the 2014 season. The prevailing thought has been that Harvey will have the surgery, but Harvey himself tweeted yesterday that he would be ready to go on April 1st, 2014.
Putting Harvey’s tweet aside, the extent of the tear in Harvey’s UCL isn’t yet known. As Will Carroll reported a few days ago, the percentage to look out for is 33. If Harvey’s UCL is less than 33 percent torn (something that won’t be known until the swelling goes down), he very well may be told that rehab is his best option at this point. If his tear is something miniscule (think in the 5 to 10 percent range), it’s almost a guarantee that Harvey will opt for rehab over surgery.
No matter what (surgery or no surgery for Harvey), the Mets must push forward with their plan to contend in 2014. If Harvey is out, the starting pitching depth will have obviously taken a hit, but the team would still be left with Zack Wheeler, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and Jenrry Mejia, with both Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard waiting in the wings.
The potential absence of Harvey does not erase the presence of the above pitchers, and it doesn’t render moot the presence of players such as David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Juan Lagares, Travis d’Arnaud, Eric Young, Jr., Wilmer Flores, Bobby Parnell, Jeurys Familia, Gonzalez Germen, Josh Edgin, and others.
The “plan” all along hasn’t been to contend in 2014. The plan has been to start contending in 2014. The potential absence of Harvey for most, if not all of the 2014 campaign, shouldn’t significantly alter the Mets’ plan going into this offseason. If anything, the potential absence of Harvey gives the team an even bigger reason to make a bold move or two.
Without The Dark Knight of Flushing, there will likely be a problem as far as the team’s drawing power is concerned. Making moves for the sole purpose of pleasing fans isn’t the proper way to operate. However, when those moves make sense and pleasing the fans is a bonus, it makes all the sense in the World.
Before Harvey’s injury, the Mets were in need of answers at shortstop and in the corner outfield positions. After Harvey’s injury, the Mets have the same needs. Harvey’s injury may alter the way they go about addressing the outfield (trading from their pitching surplus for a bat is riskier), but the needs still must be addressed.
The fans have sat through four straight losing seasons, and are about to witness a fifth. The team has a large sum of money coming off the books after the season and ownership has promised to re-invest that money with the purpose of improving the club. During the news conference that announced Harvey’s injury, Sandy Alderson had the following to say:
These are the kinds of things that happen in the game. The successful teams…respond to these setbacks. We’re fortunate we have a lot of pitching depth in our organization.
Alderson was also quoted today saying that the “plan remains intact.”
The Mets were never going into the offseason looking for stopgaps, they were going into it looking to hand out multi-year deals to premium free agents. They were also going into it with the plan of dealing for a young, impact bat if possible. The potential absence of Harvey shouldn’t alter that plan.
Harvey or no Harvey, the pieces are in place, the team is in position to add a significant amount of payroll, and 2014 should still be the year when the Mets fully emerge from the abyss. If Harvey avoids surgery, great. If he doesn’t, he should be returning in late 2014 or Opening Day in 2015 to a team that was able to contend without him, and is even stronger with him back.