The Milwaukee Brewers have taken a flyer on a couple of released veteran starting pitchers, first with Drew Smyly and most recently with Shelby Miller. Another veteran starter was just cut loose by his team and could be worth a look.
Matt Harvey already has a history of being linked to the Milwaukee Brewers. After landing with the Reds in May of last season once he was designated for assignment by the Mets, Cincinnati attempted to move Harvey near 2018’s trade deadline and the Brewers were rumored to be suitors. Instead, Harvey stayed with the Reds, elected free agency in the off season, and ended up signing a one-year deal with the Angels for 2019.
How has Harvey done this year?
He hasn’t looked great. In 59 2/3 innings, Harvey has a 3-5 record and sports a 7.09 ERA, the worst mark of his career. He has 39 strikeouts to 29 walks and has given up 13 home runs in 12 games.
Harvey’s 6.35 FIP insinuates that his numbers are just as bad as they look. And it doesn’t get much better from there. His 4.4 BB/9 are the second highest of his career, his 2.0 HR/9 tie for the highest, and his 5.9 K/9 is easily the lowest he’s ever posted for a season. The 42.6% hard hit rate from opponents this year is also the highest rate of his career.
Is there any saving grace?
Perhaps 2018 at least provides a little bit of hope. While his numbers weren’t stellar, Harvey’s 4.50 ERA, 1.250 WHIP, and 7.8 K/9 were all the best he had posted since 2015. Also, his 1.3 WAR last year was the only time it had been in the positive since ’15. Perhaps not coincidentally, last year was also the only year Harvey didn’t find himself on the injured list since ’15.
At thirty years old, Harvey surprisingly still has most of the zip left in his pitches. According to FanGraphs, the 93.2 mph average on his fastball this year is just a tick down from the 94.0 mph average that he posted in 2018 and not terribly far off of the 94.8 mph average for his career. All of his other pitches are within 1.5 mph of his career averages as well. No, he’s not the fireballer he used to be, but he’s not that far off.
So why even consider it?
There’s no risk to the Milwaukee Brewers in giving Harvey a shot in the minors if he agrees to it. Drew Smyly and Shelby Miller are once-heralded starters who were signed by the Brewers in July after both being dropped by the Rangers. Smyly started three games at Triple-A San Antonio and was alright, compiling a 4.97 ERA and striking out 18 in 12 2/3 innings before exercising a free agency clause in his contract and moving on.
Miller has started one game so far and gave up two runs in two innings. Like those two, Harvey could potentially be signed to a minor league deal so the Milwaukee Brewers can see what he has left in the tank. Plus, Miller’s 8.59 ERA in the majors in 2019 is even worse than Harvey. So if the Brewers are willing to give Miller a shot (who, granted, is two years younger), then why not Harvey?
Harvey had a ton of potential at one point. In 2013 he made his only All-Star appearance and finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting, but a career filled with injuries has led him to this point. It’s doubtful anyone thinks he’s the pitcher that puts the Milwaukee Brewers in the World Series. Still, it can’t hurt to kick the tires and see if he has any gas left in the tank.