It appears the New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds are doing more than just playing a baseball series in Great American Ball Park this week. According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the Reds and Mets are swapping a pair of former All Stars, at that, as Matt Harvey will now be a Red with Devin Mesoraco heading to the Mets.
Reds announce: Mesoraco and cash to the Mets for Harvey.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) May 8, 2018
That ‘and cash’ portion is significant, too, as Mesoraco is due over $13 million in this 2018 season - his final under contract - while Harvey is owed what’s left on his $5.63 million deal (that is also his final year under contract). As Rosenthal later clarified, the Reds are paying the entirety of Mesoraco’s deal, meaning they aren’t saving any money in this transaction.
Source: Reds paying remainder of Mesoraco’s $13.125M salary. Mets paying remainder of Harvey’s $5.625M.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) May 8, 2018
Given that Travis d’Arnaud - the Mets regular catcher - was lost for the season with eventual Tommy John surgery, New York had been very publicly searching for catching help, and Mesoraco will presumably provide that (if healthy). Of course, health is the biggest issue with him, as repeated shoulder and hip issues cost him several lost seasons as well as his starting spot to Tucker Barnhart. After his All Star campaign in 2014, Mesoraco has hit just .195/.291/.318 in 113 games across four seasons, all coming after signing his 4 year contract extension.
Harvey’s tale is a similar one, as he has posted just a 5.93 ERA in over 212 IP over the last three seasons and lost the entire 2014 year to Tommy John surgery. His 2013 season was excellent, of course, as he was valued at 5.4 bWAR in 178.1 IP, but he has struggled with declining velocity ever since, and has had trouble even staying on the field.
For the Mets, this makes sense, as they dump a player who was replaceable while adding to a position of need for a presumptive chase of a playoff spot. For the Reds, though, this is tremendously confounding.
Trading Mesoraco would’ve made some sense if they planned to shed salary, but that’s not happening in this move. Adding Harvey would’ve made some sense to help augment the worst pitching staff in baseball if he’d a) shown some semblance of being effective or b) was controlled long enough to actually contribute at a later date to a team that’s still firmly in rebuild mode. Instead, the Reds are throwing a hobbled veteran into innings that otherwise would be going to young starters looking to gain experience, and that’s a decision that makes little to no sense in my mind.
Given that Stuart Turner was already booted off the roster, the Reds had only Barnhart remaining as a 40-man catcher - therefore, they selected the contract of Tony Cruz to serve as Tucker’s backup.
I’m sure we’ll hear plenty more about the whats, wheres, and whys of this decision in the coming days, as well as how Harvey will fit into a rotation that should’ve had Amir Garrett in it via promotion ten times before adding Harvey at full price. For now, though, this head-scratcher is making me scratch, and scratch, and scratch.