Despite management’s decision to have Miguel Batista start on Saturday, there is a great outcry to have 2010 first round pick Matt Harvey called up and fill the void in the rotation left by Dillon Gee’s blood clot injury.
The logic makes sense. Harvey has handled triple-A pretty well and the Mets seem to lack the depth necessary to effectively fill in for Gee. Even if Gee was healthy, Harvey would be on track to break into the Mets rotation in 2013. Why not just move him up now?
For me, the problem is that Harvey probably won’t be that much better than any other replacement level guy that the Mets could possibly slot into the rotation. Being a starting pitcher in the big leagues is really, really hard and with only two and a half months left in the season, the Mets cannot afford to wait through what is likely to be a steep learning curve for Harvey.
However, there is a position that has less of a learning curve and is also in demand by the Mets. That position, is, of course, relief pitcher, and it’s a spot where Harvey could produce instant results. By pitching in short bursts, Harvey could unleash his stuff and not have to worry about pitch counts or batter adjustments. More importantly, Harvey could have the same impact for the Mets as if they had brought in a guy like Grant Balfour or Brett Myers.
Without help from outside the organization, the Mets would need to fill that last rotation spot with Batista or Jeremy Hefner. That doesn’t sound to appealing, but chances are that in his first handful of big league starts, Harvey won’t be much better than either of them. Just look at the struggles that super prospect Trevor Bauer is having in his first big league action. Bauer came into the season even more highly regarded than Harvey was and he’s considered close to a sure thing when it comes to succeeding in the big leagues.
With cases like Joba Chamberlain and Jenrry Mejia, I know that taking a stud pitching prospect and sticking him in the bullpen may not be the most popular idea in New York. However, this sort of thing has worked out before. Once upon a time, the Tampa Bay Rays used David Price as a reliever to give their 2008 pennant run a shot in the arm. The next season, Price transitioned into the rotation rather nicely and is now among baseball’s elite pitchers.
Leaving the fifth rotation spot up for grabs is certainly not desirable, but at this point in the season, the Mets need instant results. The most likely way to get those out of Harvey is to bring him out of the bullpen.