By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — The most interesting baseball news emanating from Great American Ball Park Tuesday occurred before the first pitch was thrown for the New York Mets-Cincinnati Reds game Tuesday night.
The two teams closed a deal between them — catcher Devin Mesoraco to the Mets for pitcher Matt Harvey.
Both players have been all but displaced with their former teams and both will be free agents after this season.
Mesoraco, making $13.1 million on the last year of his contract, was in effect Tucker Barnhart’s back-up catcher and the Mets are in need of catching help.
Harvey, nicknamed The Dark Knight, has fallen into hard times the last couple of years with the Mets. He was awful as a starter this year and was outwardly angry when he was placed in the bullpen. He was ineffective there, too, and the Mets wanted to send him to the minors. Harvey refused and the Mets designated him for assignment and the Reds picked him up.
Harvey was 0-and-2 with a 7.00 earned run average in eight games, four of them starts. Once upon a time he was considered the Mets’ ace with a 34-37 record and a 3.66 ERA. He was a major player on the New York night scene after he was a 2013 All-Star, then underwent two surgeries over the next four seasons, including Tommy John elbow ligament replacement. He underwent Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery in 2016.
Harvey was frequently the subject of items in the New York gossip tabloids and he was suspended three games last season after he reportedly parties all night and didn’t show up for a game.
Mets insiders say Harvey has lost five to six miles an hour off his fastball. Nevertheless, Reds general manager Dick Williams said the plan is to drop Harvey into the rotation. He is in Los Angeles and reportedly threw 60 pitches Tuesday. He will join the team later this week when the Reds are in LA over the weekend to play the Dodgers.
“We want to help our pitching depth and that is a priority for us,” said Williams. “We very much would like to consider him as a starting option.”
Williams admitted that the team did most of its research on Harvey’s pitching on the field and not much on his hitches off the field.
“We primarily watched video and scouted him pitching,” said Williams. “We did make some calls to learn what we could about some of the things that have been talked about off the field but it was primarily looking at his mechanics to see what we can do to help him.”
Williams was asked about the dangers of bringing a player with a sketchy reputation into a clubhouse full of young players, a guy who publicly said, “Yeah, I’m pissed off,” when the Mets demoted him to the bullpen.
“Any time we add a player there is always the concern about how they will mix in with our players,” said Williams. “The good thing is that we have a good clubhouse and a very good coaching staff and I would hope that environment would allow Matt to come here and get off on the right foot. It is something, if issues arise, and I don’t anticipate it, it would be something to keep an eye on.”
And what did the Reds see that would want them to bring in the 29-year-old right hander making $5.6 million this year?
“Suffice to say, we are optimistic that there are things we can tweak,” said Williams. “It is not like his stuff has disappeared. There is stuff there. The velocity has been good, we like the change-up. It may have been more of a pitch-mix and approach, than a big mechanical thing.”
Mesoraco, beseiged by injuries the last three years that led to three surgeries, takes a 21-game losing streak to New York. The Reds lost the last 21 games he started behind the plate — 0-11 last year and 0-10 this year.