There is almost always an assumption that the Cincinnati Reds would again take the predictable route as the offseason rolled around. Be it a haphazard re-signing of an aging Ryan Ludwick, a multi-year guarantee to Skip Schumaker for leadership, or ‘Scott Feldman - Opening Day Starter [TM],” picking around the corners of the bargain-bin has become something of the Reds forte over the last half-dozen years. Despite rumblings that the club finally had some money and high aspirations this winter, I think it’s fair to say each and every one of us has adopted a pretty firm see it to believe it stance on that premise, however.
Matt Harvey has long been rumored to be a ‘favorite’ of Reds owner Bob Castellini. After coming to the Reds in exchange for Devin Mesoraco last season, Harvey bucked his most recent brutal performance with the New York Mets, and while he never quite regained the ace-level form he had in his early New York days, he was at least a reasonably OK member of a bad Reds rotation. But as he barreled towards free agency after the season and as the multiple trade deadlines came and went, the Reds opted not to cash-in what little equity they’d recouped in Harvey, in part because of the apparent affinity the team - ownership, in particular - had developed for the right-hander.
Krall said they want positive momentum through the end of the season and the team likes having Harvey on the team. I’m still surprised and not sure I get it either— C. Trent Rosecrans (@ctrent) August 24, 2018
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
So, while the Reds needed pitching in the worst way this winter - and while they publicly discussed doling out ‘record payroll’ comments as they chased the big names - there was still a part of all our minds that thought ‘man, they’re just going to re-sign Matt Harvey and hope he miraculously turns back into an ace.’ As of last night, though, that’s a concept we can all officially flush, as Harvey agreed to an incentive-laden 1-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels.
Matt Harvey has a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels that could be worth up to $14 million with performance bonuses, league sources tell Yahoo Sports. Deal is pending a physical. @Feinsand was first with the news.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 19, 2018
Missing out on Harvey’s production for the 2019 season is not really a big deal, honestly. Marcels projects him to have an ugly 5.00 ERA in 144 IP, which nobody will miss, while Steamer has him with a similarly ugly 4.70 ERA in 153 IP. Pair that with the list of once-good, now-iffy hurlers expected to land low-priced 1-year contracts that are abundant on the free agent market - Mike Fiers, Derek Holland, Wade Miley, etc. - and the Reds still have ample options to throw a few million at a reclamation project if they so choose. There is also, of course, still the opportunity for them to swing much, much higher than that pool of pitchers, with Dallas Keuchel still a free agent prize that’s theoretically attainable in their purported ‘record’ budget.
I think the story here, really, is not that the Reds won’t miss Harvey’s production, and rather that they didn’t let their apparent affinity for having him get in the way of a smart business decision. Despite ownership being a fan of Harvey, the Reds didn’t merely settle for him because of that, and obviously did not outbid what’s not exactly a massive offer in order to keep him around and the powers-that-be happy. And considering the previous non-tender of Billy Hamilton, too - also long a ‘favorite’ of team owner Bob Castellini - there appears to be a more definitively clear line between the Reds front office and ownership, something that hasn’t been the case during the previous few awful, awful seasons.
Matt Harvey might be excellent in 2019, and I hope he does. There is obviously still plenty left in his tank, and the life on his fastball during the 2018 season was a vast improvement over his injury-riddled last few years as a Met. The deal the Angels signed him to could certainly end up a bargain if that’s the case, and there is a non-zero chance that he could’ve returned as a Red in 2019 (and beyond) with good success, too. Still, I think it’s clear that the Reds front office didn’t see the move as a fit, and that they were the ones who got to make that final call, and independent of what Harvey does from here on that’s a development that I think we should all view as a positive.
Now, let’s get back to hoping the Reds do actually aim higher than Harvey in their offseason acquisitions...