Matt Harvey's season ending injury was devastating for the New York Mets. Harvey, coined the "Dark Knight of Gotham" by Sports Illustrated in May, had been the franchise's ace and beacon of hope that good times were on their way. Harvey was a central figure in the Mets' plans to become contenders as soon as next season, but now the 24-year-old righty may miss 2014 with Tommy John surgery looming. Considering Harvey's importance to the Mets, losing him will certainly alter how the Mets move forward without him for a year. Three of the Mets 101 writers will attempt to address the three biggest questions for the Mets in this Harvey-less void.
1. On a scale of 1-10, how devastating is Matt Harvey's injury to the Mets?
Kyle Brosnan: Short term, its only a five because the Mets aren't close to competing this year. Long term, that remains a much bigger question because at this point in time, we don't know what the course of action is going to be. If Harvey elects to undergo Tommy John surgery, then the impact would be much closer to ten because he would be looking at missing the 2014 season and we won't know how effective he will be upon his return. Most pitchers can bounce back stronger from Tommy John surgery, but any time a pitcher goes under the knife nothing is guaranteed.
Ryan Karpusiewicz: 8/10. This injury is devastating for the Mets. With Harvey on the hill, the team could have become contenders as early as next year. Those hopes seem a bit diminished now. GM Sandy Alderson indicated that the team's plan will undoubtedly be altered without having Harvey next season, so it is a crushing blow.
Mike Phillips: This injury rates as a 13 on the 1-10 scale. Matt Harvey was the one guy (apologies to David Wright) the Mets absolutely could not afford to lose. Harvey had spent the entire 2013 campaign proving that he was one of the elite pitchers in the game, alongside the likes of Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, and Felix Hernandez. Those guys do not grow on trees, and no matter how good Zack Wheeler may end up being he will not be able to fill Harvey's shoes by himself. The injury, as Andy Martino of the New York Daily News described in his column today, could be a franchise altering moment for the Mets.
2. Should this news affect how the Mets handle their other young arms, like Zack Wheeler?
Kyle: We don't know how Harvey got hurt–if it was a wear and tear injury or if it happened in one event. Nevertheless, it has been the trend around baseball to ease young arms into their professional careers with innings and pitch limits. The Mets and other teams are going to continue to implement these limits on their young pitchers (they were going to shut Harvey and Wheeler down anyway before the injury) but may lower the innings caps moving forward.
Ryan: It should absolutely affect how the Mets manage young talent. Some can argue that Harvey's seemingly minor injuries earlier this season attributed to today's bomb shell. You also can't forget that Harvey isn't the first young talent injured this year (see Jenrry Mejia and Bobby Parnell). Pitching is the backbone of this organization moving forward, and it needs to be healthy if the Mets are going to contend in the long run.
Mike: It's tough to say because not all pitchers are built the same way. We will never know how Harvey got hurt, like Kyle said, so it is hard to predict how to avoid a situation like this with a guy like Wheeler. The Mets are clearly going to try and wrap Wheeler in bubble wrap the rest of the way based on what happened in last night's game. Wheeler was taken out after having thrown 105 pitches with two outs in the seventh inning and Cliff Lee, the pitcher, coming up to hit. Terry Collins acknowledged after the game that the pitch decision was made prior to the game, and Wheeler will probably be shut down as soon as he hits his innings limit this season. I personally find it hard to believe the Mets will now try and string him along to the end of the season like the original plan for him and Harvey dictated.
3. If Harvey does undergo Tommy John surgery, how will that affect the Mets' other plans in the offseason?
Kyle: A Harvey-less 2014 Mets means the team has a built in excuse to not spend money this offseason. 2014 was supposed to be the year the team was expected to take the next step forward and compete for a playoff spot. That task is much more difficult when you lose one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball and ownership could easily punt on 2014 and declare 2015 the year to compete.
Ryan: I'm unsure. Whether they try and acquire a new arm remains to be seen, but I doubt they will. The Mets may platoon next year with several of the pitchers they used this year, and chalk 2014 as another step building towards contention in anticipation of a Harvey return in 2015.
Mike: Harvey's injury absolutely has to change how Sandy Alderson is planning on putting the 2014 Mets' together. The Mets have already begun offering pieces of the 2013 team, like Marlon Byrd and John Buck, for trade on the waiver wire now that Harvey is gone. Harvey's loss could send the team into a tailspin right now, and that combined with the loss of Byrd and/or Buck via trade could end up costing Collins his job. Prior to the injury, many people expected the Mets to be in the market for a cleanup hitter, like Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez or Miami's Giancarlo Stanton, this winter. The chances of a trade of that magnitude significantly decrease for the Mets because they now need the Jenrry Mejia's and Rafael Montero's of the world in their organization to help cover Harvey's loss. I agree with Kyle in that the injury does now give the Mets an excuse to cheap out and not spend money, particular since building a winner without Matt Harvey would be incredibly difficult. The Mets may still spend some money, acquiring guys like Stephen Drew and Shin-Soo Choo to fill holes in the lineup, but a big ticket acquisition is unlikely.
Either way, the Mets need to be careful about how they approach this offseason. Fans have been promised that 2013 was the last of the lean years and the team would spend money and significantly improve for 2014. The last of the team's anchor contracts are off the books, and the Mets will have roughly 40 million dollars committed to payroll before any offseason spending. If the Mets show up in Port St. Lucie with a 60 million dollar team, fans will likely boycott Citi Field in 2014. Ticket sales should plummet if the Mets don't look to be competitive, particularly since there isn't an All-Star Game carrot to get fans to buy plans for a below average product at high prices.
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