LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The past two seasons may have dented Matt Harvey's reputation as one of the game's top pitchers. But they have not erased rival teams' interest in his services.
The Rangers and Orioles are among those who have asked about Harvey at the Winter Meetings, multiple sources confirmed, though industry speculation abounds that the Mets can finalize a deal to send their former ace elsewhere. Although New York has needs in its bullpen and at second base, trading Harvey would reduce the club's rotation depth to precarious levels.
Still, it has become clear that Harvey's 5-7 record and 6.70 ERA this past season are not dissuading clubs from pursuing him. The National League's All-Star Game starter in 2013, Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery after that season, missed all of '14, then returned to go 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA during the Mets' World Series run in '15. The following season, Harvey struggled as he pitched through numbness in his right arm, eventually undergoing surgery to alleviate symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome.
He has not been the same pitcher since, battling shoulder weakness last summer, missing two and a half months and going 1-4 with an 11.28 ERA in six outings upon his return. But the Mets still entered this offseason counting on Harvey as a member of their rotation behind Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
Trading Harvey could net the Mets an interesting return; MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported that the Mets and Rangers were discussing a deal involving former top infield prospect Jurickson Profar, while MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal floated the idea of the Mets dealing Harvey to the Orioles for a reliever such as Brad Brach or Darren O'Day.
But New York can address both the infield and bullpen in a number of ways that do not include trading Harvey. Trade options abound on the second-base market, including the Pirates' Josh Harrison, the Phillies' Cesar Hernandez and the Indians' Jason Kipnis. Quality free agents likewise litter the bullpen market, such as setup men Bryan Shaw and Addison Reed. To that end, Newsday reported that the Mets have made Tommy Hunter a relief target.
"We're looking at improving the offense as well as the bullpen," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "I would say at this point, it's as much a function of what's available to us in this timeframe versus what our priority is. But I would say we're still focused most immediately on the bullpen, as we have been. But we keep monitoring what's been going on."
If the Mets trade Harvey, their depth chart behind deGrom and Syndergaard would be limited to Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and Rafael Montero, all of whom will lug significant injury or performance questions -- or both -- into the season. Harvey, for all his own issues, offers the Mets some measure of stability. Trading him would also mean selling low on a pitcher who not so long ago was one of baseball's best.
For now, it remains a long-shot. But that is what the Winter Meetings are for -- gauging and evaluating, and if things break right, completing a deal.
"I think sometimes what you have to guard against is feeling unnecessary or unwarranted pressure to do something in this timeframe," Alderson said. "Obviously, the environment is conducive to it. You have to, to some extent, divorce yourself from that, and maintain a strategy that may extend you beyond these Meetings. But there's no question that being around here and being closer and sometimes being able to meet person-to-person can make a difference."