So does Matt Harvey’s four-inning performance against the Dodgers on Friday night change how you feel about the Mets trading him to the Reds for Devin Mesoraco?
From the jump, we were convinced that the Mets gave up on Harvey too soon. Dumping him to the bullpen after only four starts would be premature for any starting pitcher, and in this case, the Mets understandably let their personal feelings interfere with their professional opinion.
Sometimes it can be difficult to separate the two, and the Mets determined that Harvey no longer was worth the effort. That said, don’t get too caught up in what Harvey did to a weakened Dodgers lineup at Chavez Ravine — or underestimate how important it was for the Mets to get an experienced catcher like Mesoraco.
While it’s true that Harvey allowed only one hit — a triple by Cody Bellinger that was lost in the lights — and his max velocity reached 96.5 mph with an average of 94.3 (according to BrooksBaseball.net), the Dodgers did square up a few loud outs and he mustered only two swings-and- misses in 55 pitches.
Given that he is a reclamation project, however, that had to be considered a solid first step for Harvey, who probably was relieved to be done with his Mets baggage. By comparison, during his last start for the Mets, on April 19 against the Braves, Harvey topped out at 94.7 mph (93.1 average) over six innings. He threw 96 pitches, with only five swings-and-misses.
So was Harvey all that different? Not really. And Mickey Cal laway felt comfortable enough to mention during Saturday’s media briefing that he watched Harvey’s start and texted him afterward. The message?
“Way to go,” Callaway said. “I’m pulling for him.”
Plainly put, the Mets are very happy with Mesoraco, thank you, and they should be. Sandy Alderson did much better than anyone had anticipated by snagging Mesoraco to shore up the team’s most glaring weakness, and there is the potential for the eight-year veteran to make a bigger impact than his recent numbers suggest.
With Mesoraco behind the plate, the Mets’ pitching staff has allowed three runs in 19 innings. And in a nifty coincidence, his first hit for them was Friday’s ninth-inning homer, back-to-back with Michael Conforto, on the same night Harvey made his Reds debut on the West Coast.
The two will be intertwined through the rest of their careers, connected by a trade that neither one would have imagined months ago.
Mesoraco couldn’t remember if Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman initially told him that Harvey was the other piece in the deal when he was called into the office Tuesday afternoon. His mind sort of went blank. But after being resigned to a backup role in Cincy, Mesoraco was anxious for a place with regular playing time, so going to the Mets made sense, as did including Harvey in the swap.
“I was making a lot of money,” Mesoraco said Saturday, “and Matt was making money, so we kind of matched up. I didn’t think anybody was going to trade for me and take on the majority of the money I was making. Plus I haven’t been super-productive.”
Still, the Reds included $5.8 million in the trade to help offset the roughly $10 million left on Mesoraco’s contract this season. The Mets owed Harvey about $4.46 million, so it’s close to a wash financially for both sides and a win-win for Alderson, who got a starting catcher for a pitcher he DFA’d.
Another hidden asset here is the highly motivated Mesoraco’s thirst for reviving his career. The Mets have noticed his tireless efforts to get up to speed with the pitching staff, and there’s no substitute for eight years behind the plate in the bigs.
Mesoraco, who will turn 30 next month, has studied video of the rotation, going back two or more starts for each one, and can be seen in the clubhouse chatting up the relievers during spare moments. Before Saturday’s rainout, he finally had the chance for some early work in the cages with the hitting coaches before meeting scheduled starter Noah Syndergaard.
“Devin has major-league experience, and you can’t just skip that step,” said Zack Wheeler, who allowed one run in six innings with Mesoraco catching Wednesday. “He knows what he needs to do for preparation and he does his homework.”
At the plate, Mesoraco the All-Star seems like an eternity ago, when he had 25 home runs and an .893 OPS in 2014. Since then, he had averaged only 32 games played before this season, batting .191 with a .605 OPS, and he believes the offensive funk has been the result of inconsistent playing time.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity here,” Mesoraco said. “There’s no excuses — you either produce or you don’t. The Mets took a chance on me and I hope I can reward them for it.”
For where the Mets are now, Mesoraco was the better bet.