The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim finally got their starting pitcher… sort of. On Tuesday night, Matt Harvey and the Angels agreed to terms on a 1 year deal, pending a physical. The deal is reported to be worth a base of $11 million and could be worth as much as $14 million due to incentive based bonuses. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com was the first to break the news.
With Billy Eppler rumored to be “going for a touchdown” this offseason, this is not exactly the move many were expecting, or hoping for. The once highly regarded “Dark Knight”, to say Harvey has taken some steps back would be a severe understatement. While never seeing an ERA higher than 2.73 or a WHIP higher than 1.15 in his first 3 seasons (including his first one post Tommy John), Harvey saw a full 2 run spike in his ERA complemented by a .4 rise in his WHIP from 2015 to 2016. The downward trend continued to the tune of a 6.70 ERA in 2017, until the Mets were all but forced to trade him to the Reds early in the 2018 season. While he did perform better, a 4.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 7.8 K/9 aren’t exactly the makings of an $11 million pitcher. Even digging a little deeper, Harvey gave up hard contact on 38.9% of batted balls against him last year, which ranked tied for 31st among all pitchers with at least 100 IP according to Fangraphs. So why even make this move?
Well, for one, while Harvey did have a 4.50 ERA with the Reds, he also did so in one of the most hitter friendly parks in all of baseball. Great American Ballpark is rated by ESPN as the 4th most hitter friendly stadium, tied with Progressive Field in Cleveland. For comparison, Angel Stadium ranks 19th by the same measurements. Cincinnati as a team also combined for -7 DRS on the year, meaning they were a little below average defensively. The Angels were 5th in all of baseball with 47 DRS, which is well above average for a season.
Harvey may have also tapped into a bit of his old self during his time with the Reds. While averaging only 92.6 mph on his fastball with the Mets, he bumped up his average to 94.4 while with the Reds. He’s also seen a rise in his percent of quality pitches thrown, with his changeup rated as one of the top 5 changeups in baseball based on metrics such as horizontal break, vertical break, and lateness of break.
As most Angels fans know, the rotation struggled heavily with injuries last year, leading to heavy usage of the bullpen throughout the season that resulted in a lot of burnt out arms at the end of the year. While not a true workhorse per se, Harvey did make 24 starts with the Reds, and averaged exactly 5 1/3 innings per start. While not phenomenal, it could still be considered an upgrade over what they experienced last year, and he has the potential to give the bullpen a rest when he pitches.
While not the most prolific of signings, especially with Dallas Keuchel still on the market, Harvey could prove to be incredibly valuable to the Angels’ pitching staff. Although $11 million is somewhat hefty for a player who appears to have lost his superstardom, the potential for him to even approach those levels is enticing enough to bring him in, especially on a 1 year deal that carries virtually no risk. Harvey is out to prove himself entering his age 30 season, and the Angels hope they can see the Dark Knight rise for them in 2018.