The bizarre reality of this Matt Harvey trade being a Mets win

CINCINNATI — For Matt Harvey, this is a good-news, bad-news, worse-news scenario. The good: The Reds are an awful team with an abysmal starting rotation. There will be plenty of opportunity here. There are plenty of innings available for a starting pitcher trying to prove he’s still a starting pitcher.

The bad: The 2018 Reds are worse, far worse than even the 2012 and 2013 Mets teams on which Harvey cut his teeth, and they play in a stadium, Great American Ball Park, which is a hitter’s paradise. For a guy who had grown so vulnerable to the long ball, this isn’t exactly ideal office space.

The worse: Have you ever tried to find a good time after midnight in Cincinnati?

(Actually, upon further review, maybe that’s one you can file into the “win” column for Harvey, who could probably use more nights at home.)

For the Mets? Look, they aren’t receiving the Devin Mesoraco of 2014, when he was an All-Star, when he finished 21st in the MVP balloting, when, at age 26 he looked on the verge of becoming one of the best catchers in the game, hitting .273 with 25 homers and 80 RBIs. That was one year after he (along with Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce) helped lead the Reds to their last winning season, 90-72, and an NL play-in game loss to the Pirates.

But, then, the Reds aren’t receiving the Harvey of 2013. And it’s a sad little irony, isn’t it? All those nights when Harvey lit up Citi Field and so many thought they were seeing the second coming of Tom Seaver.

And Seaver wound up being traded to the Reds, too.

Though it’s unlikely that May 8, 2018, will resonate for decades the way June 15, 1977, still does for Mets fans, unless you’re talking about whatever lingering regret exists in the minds of Mets fans for what Harvey’s career in Flushing was supposed to be and how it wound up.

And as much as it was clear the Harvey-Mets marriage ended as it should have, it does remain shocking to see it end this way. Remember, it was as recently as 2015 when there was a legitimate debate among baseball people — though it never got close to consummation between the clubs — if the Mets and Red Sox should swap Harvey for Mookie Betts.

Betts is a perennial MVP stalwart in Boston now, and he won’t be going anywhere for a decade at least. Instead, Harvey yields Mesoraco, and on one hand that seems like manna from heaven — the Mets are beyond desperate for a professional catcher, and the very notion that there were teams willing to bid against each other for Harvey’s services given his profound struggles does feel like an enormous win for the Mets.

Still, when you look at Mesoraco’s baseball plight since that wonderful 2014, it reads like something out of the Travis d’Arnaud DL Itinerary — only worse. In 2015, his season ended after only 23 games because he needed hip surgery. In 2016, he was limited to 16 games thanks to a torn labrum in his left shoulder. And in 2017, he was hit by a pitch in the left foot, ending his season at 56 games.

In truth, as popular as Mesoraco was with Reds fans, he became very much a symbol of franchise frustration — similar to Harvey, in fact — because after his breakout year in ’14 he signed a four-year, $28 million contract ($13 million of which remains, of which the Reds will pay the full freight) and his numbers for the life of that contract have been startling: 113 games total, seven homers, 20 RBIs, a slash line of .197/.291/.318, an OPS+ of 63.

“When he’s healthy, he’s still a productive player,” Mets assistant GM J.P. Ricciardi said, and loosely translated that means: Despite all of it he’s a step up from the two-headed catching monster of Tomas Nido and Jose Lobaton that has helped reduce the lower third of Mets’ lineup to a black hole for over a month.

For the Mets, who when they DFA’d Harvey might have been willing to get a full set of catcher’s gear in return, getting a living, breathing catcher instead makes it a good news/good news deal for them.

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