To be successful again, Matt Harvey must shed his past, move on from the Dark Knight persona, and adjust to being the best pitcher he's currently capable of being, Mets manager Mickey Callaway told SNY during an interview on Mets Hot Stove earlier this month.
"I think that's the key, to make sure you're not trying to get him back to anything," Callaway explained. "You want to get the most potential out of who he is today. ... We don't need the Dark Knight, we need Harvey to be Harvey on a daily basis and be comfortable with who he is."
Mets GM Sandy Alderson has repeatedly said he expects to tender Harvey a contract for 2018.
However, former Mets GM and current SiriusXM host Steve Phillips said the Mets should non-tender Harvey to free up money and a rotation spot to sign a more reliable starting pitcher.
"When he fails, you don't have a No. 3 starter. You don't have someone to take that spot," Phillips recently told Daily News reporter John Harper. "With all of their injuries, they need some predictability in their rotation, and Harvey is completely unpredictable. His stuff has gone backwards and he hasn't shown the ability to fight through tough times. He's going to have to pitch with less stuff and to do that he needs tenacious makeup. That's something that's missing with him, so I'd say the odds are stacked against him."
In a conversation with Harper, Mets manager Mickey Callaway recently likened Harvey to starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, who returned from major surgery and rediscovered his former success under Callaway's leadership in Cleveland.
"It seems like a very similar case," Callaway explained. "You just get confused in what's going on and you're not sure how to right the ship. And it can be a very simple process."
However, according to Phillips, the Mets would be better served replacing Harvey altogether, especially due to the salary he will earn next season, after which he is eligible to be a free agent. The Pace University Law School team -- which is usually close to dead-on -- projects Harvey to earn $5.85 million next season.
"Lance Lynn, who I think is underrated, could really solidify their rotation," Phillips concluded.
Lynn, who is just 30 years old and already had Tommy John surgery, would fit in beautifully with the Mets. Plus, having someone of his stature under contract the next few seasons should help alleviate pressure to re-sign every remaining member of Alderson's homegrown rotation.
The thing is, Lynn will have no problem getting a four or five-year contract this winter that pays him at least $13 million a season. This is way more than I expect Alderson to give to any one pitcher, especially since he reportedly has just $30-40 million to spend on all of his acquisitions.
Therefore, Phillips' inclination is right. To get Lynn, who would certainly benefit from Callaway and Citi Field, the Mets would likely need to cut or trade Harvey because he'd free up a rotation spot and a necessary $6 million or so. Otherwise, it's hard to see Sandy adding to a strength at such a large cost when he still has multiple holes to fill in his lineup and bullpen.
Interested teams began contacting the Mets last week to see if they're open to trading Harvey before the start of next season, sources recently told SNY contributor Andy Martino. However, according to Martino, the Mets are more inclined to keep their former ace.
"They point to a late-season uptick in velocity as another reason for hopefulness," Martino said. Also, he added, "they believe he will be especially motivated to work hard to prepare for his last season under team control."
If Lynn has other suitors and no intention of signing with the Mets, I'm more than fine seeing Alderson keep Harvey, who I think is going to win Comeback Player of the Year next season.
Seriously, I truly believe Harvey is going to thrive due to a combination of him being a free agent one year from now, being a full year removed from TOS surgery, several years removed from TJ surgery, being publicly embarrassed by last season's results, and being able to hear new ideas and be motivated by Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland.
I mean, if there was ever a combination of factors to encourage a turn-around, it's this one with Harvey, mostly because I expect Callaway's experience, way of talking, and his philosophies about life and pitching to be exactly what Matt needs from a physical and psychological perspective.
Harvey had a 2.84 ERA after his first four starts in 2017. However, during his next nine starts, he went 3-6, allowed 33 runs in 45 innings, walked 30, and struck out just 37 batters. Then, Harvey went on the disabled list for more than two months with a stress-related injury to his right shoulder.
He returned to make six starts, during which he allowed 28 runs in 22 1/3 innings, finishing with a 5-7 record and 1.694 WHIP for the season. His final 6.70 ERA ended up as the worst ever in franchise history for a pitcher making at least 15 starts in a season.
"This nightmare of a season is over for me," a relieved Harvey said in September. "Throughout this process of coming back from thoracic outlet, it's just been curveball after curveball of different feelings, different strengths. It was something I tried to push through, some uncomfortable pain, some weakness, and I think I just put myself in a hole throughout the process."