When Matt Harvey reaches free agency after the 2018 season, he will be sure to present a financial challenge to the New York Mets if he stays in Queens that long. Harvey is a Boras client and though there have been whispers of signing an extension this past winter, it’s unlikely a team like the Mets and an agent like Boras will find any common ground in the next few years, leaving open the possibility of a trade.
The Mets will need to focus on other stud pitching in Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, as well as an offense, and Harvey is unlikely to take a discount, specifically since Tommy John surgery will prevent him from being a free agent until he is turning 31-years-old.
Harvey’s case is a solid one still early in his career. The Mets’ ace has two full seasons of a sub 3.00 ERA, throwing a 2.71 ERA in 2015 through 189.1 innings. His peripherals are outstanding as well; Harvey has a career 8.3 K/9 and 1.014 WHIP, coming in at 8.9 and 1.019 respectfully post Tommy John surgery last season.
He falls somewhere in the range of Cole Hamels or Max Scherzer before they signed their big deals and slightly less valuable than say, David Price, who recently signed for roughly $30 million per year.
Hamels inked a 6 year, $144 million dollar deal at the age of 29 in 2013 to slightly inferior stats but more durability and no prior arm injuries. Scherzer signed his deal before the 2015 season, inking 7 years, 210 million at the age of 30-years-old and was the top prize in his free agent class.
Scherzer never threw 200 innings in a season until 2013, in his 5th complete major league season and carries a 1.172 WHIP despite a 9.8 K/9 ratio in his career. Having pitched in the spacious Comerica Park most of his career, it’s a little more comparable to the pitcher friendly confines of Citi Field for Harvey and may help to compensate for no DH in case American League teams want to get in on Harvey.
Matt Harvey Salary
Harvey’s Current Salary: $4.235 million (first year of arbitration)
Harvey’s Free Agency Year: End of the 2018 season
Harvey’s Projected Contract: 7 years, $232 million
Why? David Price and Zack Greinke raised the bar on starting pitchers this past winter, each entering the $30 million per year territory previously reserved for Clayton Kershaw and everyone else of his caliber, which includes no other pitchers. We don’t anticipate too many new bars being set with weak free agent pitching the next couple of winters.
Greinke is a bad comparison because he is already 32-years-old but Price, at the age of 30, signed with the Red Sox for 7/210, or exactly $30 million per year for seven years. To date, he is a better pitcher than Harvey and he barely topped Scherzer’s deal a year earlier, both pitchers as the top options on the free agent market in their respective winters. Right now, the value of the best free agent pitcher is about 30 million per year and 37-years-old seems to be the magic number to commit to a contract, since Greinke’s six year deal also reflects this sentiment.
We can safely assume the offer will be for seven years assuming Harvey waits until free agency, which we can assume since he has Boras as an agent. If that is the case, he is going to sign after the 2018 season, when Jose Fernandez, Dallas Keuchel and possibly Kershaw (he has an opt out after 2018) could all be free agents. There are only so many teams to go around spending giant $200 million dollar commitments, and Harvey’s pool will only be the pitching-focused teams who don’t lock up Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, or Josh Donaldson instead.
Harvey is going to suffer a little bit for this. But if we can expect someone like Harper to command $40 million in his prime and the premium on ace pitching, which Harvey will be at this career trajectory, is already entering the $30 million range, expect Harvey to fall somewhere between the comparative worth of Scherzer and Price now, and Kershaw and Keuchel later. That means in the low 30’s, or somewhere around $32 million per year with Boras selling the lack of innings on Harvey’s arm, despite being nearly 31-years-old. Seven years at $32 million per season (on average as perhaps he has some front and back loading going on) will bring Harvey in at seven years and $232 million, or the norm for the average cost of an ace around 2019 if the market and his talents continue trending in the same direction.