If the Mets have not already done so, they should seriously start thinking about signing Matt Harvey to a long-term contract.
Not counting his injured year, Harvey has about two years of major league experience. The Mets signed David Wright, Jonathon Niese and Juan Lagares to extensions at similar points in their careers, so there is precedent for the Mets taking action.
This is obviously different from those cases. Harvey is far more talented than Niese and Lagares. And Wright was only 23 years old when he signed his contract in 2006. He knew when the six-year deal would be over, he would still be in his prime for a big-time free agent deal. And that’s just what happened.
Harvey, though, is already 26. If he signed for six years, he would be 32 years old when it is done. His prime might be over. He would likely still get a nice contract, but not like the money he could get if he were 29. So basically it would take a lot of money to tie him up through what should be his most productive years. He will not be signing a below market deal like many players take to buy out their arbitration and free agent years.
Harvey has three arbitration years before he would become a free agent (at age 29, by the way). Let’s say he averages $10 million for those three years, which is realistic. Now let’s say he becomes a free agent and signs an eight-year, $200 million contract, which is also realistic. That’s $25 million per year. That means over the next six years (I’m using six years as a likely contract extension; anything longer for a pitcher has proven to be ill-advised), he would make $105 million ($30 million from arbitration, $75 million for the first three years of his contract).
Do you think Matt Harvey would take a six-year extension at $20 million per year right now? That would pay him more than the above estimate, and he would still be a free agent at 32. Yes, he would be forfeiting the chance to score huge in arbitration, and score even bigger in free agency. However, this is guaranteed money; if his arm falls all tomorrow or he somehow loses effectiveness, he gets paid.
For the Mets, they get one of the best pitchers in baseball (assuming Harvey continues to perform) for $20 million a year. That is a relative bargain these days.
Of course, there are factors in play against such a deal. First of all is the Met aversion to spending money. Second is Matt Harvey’s agent — the despicable Scott Boras, who loves taking his clients to free agency and breaking records.
There is something else to consider. The Mets have been stockpiling young pitching for a reason. Obviously it is so they can have a superior rotation. But it might also be so they would never have to pay premium dollars for pitchers. Most of those contracts end up going south anyway, so why add to the list of bad deals? If Harvey leaves after three reasonably priced years, the Mets would still have Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard at pre-free agency prices. If they pitch up to their potential, does that make Harvey redundant and not worth a major investment?
I hope the Mets are not thinking this way. Matt Harvey is a special player, one who brings electricity to the park whenever he steps onto the field. It is hard to put a price on that. But the Mets should try. And the longer they wait, they higher that price will be.