David Schoenfield, ESPN Senior Writer 79d

Does latest Matt Harvey mishandling mean his days with Mets are numbered?

The New York Mets are like the 4-year-old kid who keeps tripping over his shoelaces yet never learns to tie them.

The latest stumble is a decision to start Matt Harvey on Wednesday -- on three days' rest that was eventually called off because of ... the weather.

“We have reconsidered and Matt will not pitch tomorrow. He will pitch on Thursday,” Terry Collins said after the Mets’ loss to the Phillies. “Dan (Warthen) and I and Sandy (Alderson) talked about it, and we have possible weather issues popping up, and we certainly don’t want that to be a factor. So we just said we’ll push him back.”

Even thinking of starting a pitcher on short rest is unusual in itself: 29 players have started a game on three days' rest this year, but 26 of them did it following a relief appearance, not another start. But Harvey has made only one start since returning from a DL stint that lasted more than two months.

In that outing against the Houston Astros on Saturday, he labored through 70 pitches in just two innings. The overall pitch count wasn't high, but a 42-pitch second inning is certainly a high-stress inning. You'd think the Mets would want to be as cautious as possible in bringing Harvey back after that game.

Terry Collins' explanation was that Harvey wanted to get back out there as soon as possible, apparently to erase the stench of that game against the Astros. If that sounds familiar, it's because Harvey talked himself into coming back out for the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, when Collins was going to remove Harvey with a 2-0 lead for closer Jeurys Familia. The Mets blew the lead and lost the game -- and the Series -- in the 12th inning.

"Well, we took into account the fact that he only threw 70 pitches the other day," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told the New York Times on Tuesday. "We don't think there's a significant medical risk to him at this point. And he wants to get back on the mound."

Even if you buy that explanation, there is absolutely nothing to be gained for the Mets here. Why would you even consider having him do something only knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and two others have done this season (and Francisco Liriano and Brad Peacock both did it after low pitch counts).

The only reasonable justification I can come up with: Harvey isn't going to be on the Mets in 2018.

Think of two likely scenarios:

  1. Harvey continues to pitch poorly in his remaining starts, more evidence that he's simply not the pitcher he was in 2015, when he had a good season coming off Tommy John surgery. If that's the case, you'd have a pitcher coming off two poor seasons, with surgery to fix thoracic outlet syndrome in between and a DL stint this year for a stress injury to the scapula bone in his right shoulder. After making $5.125 million this year, Harvey would be due for a raise in arbitration in his final year before free agency, maybe in the $10 million range. They might simply decide to non-tender him and use that money elsewhere.

    Buster Olney speculated about this back in early August, suggesting a non-tender would be an unlikely scenario. He wrote, "An important question the Mets should ask as they do their roster evaluations at the end of the season is: Do they believe that Harvey is more likely than not to rebound?"

    Given the comeback rate from thoracic outlet surgery is mixed -- Tyson Ross, for example, had the same surgery and was terrible this season -- maybe the Mets have doubts about Harvey's ability to rebound.

  2. They want to trade Harvey regardless. In which case, it's to the Mets' benefit for Harvey to show he's healthy and pitching well. And if Harvey wants to pitch on three days' rest, well, maybe the Mets simply figure they have nothing to lose anyway. His trade value can only go up from where it is right now.

The Harvey start is only the latest episode in a fiasco of a season. Jerry Crasnick detailed the team's questionable approach to injuries back in May and things have only gotten worse since then. As unbelievable as this statement is, it's true: Jose Reyes leads the team in plate appearances. He of the minus-0.7 WAR.

Yoenis Cespedes' hamstring injury resurfaced, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler got injured and Michael Conforto's breakout season ended with a dislocated shoulder. Some of that, of course, is bad luck. The Mets had a lot of that this season.

There was the Robert Gsellman incident back in mid-August. Alderson had said the young pitcher "needs to start pitching better." Gsellman's reply: "I don't really care." Gsellman later apologized to Alderson, saying he does care, but it has the look and feel of a team in need of an attitude readjustment.

Then there are the fans, who are going to put enormous pressure on rookies Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith to rescue the team in 2018. Rosario has flashed some good defense, but at the plate he has 31 strikeouts and only two walks, without the power or exit velocity to justify that kind of approach. Smith has hit .182 in 25 games with poor defensive metrics, and his ultimate power production remains in question. Both are very young, of course, but neither should be counted on to be major contributors next season.

Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of the season, Mets fans. I see Reyes and Nori Aoki hit first and second on Tuesday.

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