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Matt Harvey DFA’d. What does that mean? May 4, 2018

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Sports.
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Mets mopup reliever Matt Harvey was asked by the team to accept an assignment to the AAA Las Vegas 51s. Harvey refused, so the team will designate him for assignment, or “DFA” him. Here are some big questions that might arise from that move.

First and foremost, why did the team ask Harvey to accept a demotion? Because they needed to. The Mets don’t have the right to send Harvey down on their own volition like they do with other players. Hansel Robles, for example, was optioned to the minors earlier this year, and the Mets were not required to ask his permission because Robles had less than five years of service time and had only been shuttled between the majors and the minors in two prior years. New players have three “option years”: as long as they have less than five years of service time, players can be down to the minors and called back up by the team without having to get the consent of the player. Robles is in his third option year, since the team used options in 2015 and 2017, as well as this year. Steven Matz has never been optioned to the minors, so the Mets could sent him to AAA at will. Harvey, then, would have all three option years left, since he hasn’t been sent down to the minors since debuting in 2012. However, he has over five years of service time. As a result, he can exercise what’s called “veteran’s consent,” meaning the team cannot send him down without his permission or without jumping through some hoops first.

What hoops? In order to send Harvey down, they have to first change his status to “designated for assignment.” That means he comes off both the 25-man (active) and 40-man (extended) rosters. The 25-man roster comprises all the players eligible to play in a game today for the team; the 40-man roster includes players who the team can call up, if they have room on the active roster. Sending Harvey to the minors removes him from the 25-man roster automatically, but had he consented to an assignment to Vegas, he would have remained on the 40-man roster. By DFAing him, the Mets open a spot on both the active and 40-man rosters and place Harvey in a kind of limbo for up to 10 days.

What can the Mets do now? Conceivably, the Mets could immediately release Harvey. They would remain on the hook for his entire $5,625,000 salary for 2018. Harvey would be free to sign with any other team. If he did, any salary paid to him would reduce the Mets’ liability, so these signings are generally at the league minimum. The Mets took advantage of this rule, for example, when they signedGary Sheffield.

More likely, the Mets will put Harvey on waivers. That means that all teams will be informed that Harvey is available and be able to “claim” him for themselves. If multiple teams claim him, the team with the worst record will have priority. The Mets could just let a team claim him, or they could try to work out a trade with one of the teams that shows interest. They could also, on seeing interest in Harvey, revoke the waivers and put him back on the 40-man roster.

If Harvey clears waivers (meaning no team claims him), the Mets then have the ability to send Harvey to the minors. This is called “outrighting” him, for “sending him outright to the minors,” and can only happen to a player once in his career without his consent.

Wow. So what will happen? The Mets won’t likely release Harvey right away. That precludes the chance to arrange a trade and get something out of this situation.

There won’t likely be much trading interest in Harvey. He’s had a difficult year. After returning from injury in September of last year, he put up an 11.28 ERA in 22 1/3 innings across 5 starts. (Really, it was 6, since his game in relief was simply piggybacking on a well-publicized one-inning start by Noah Syndergaard.) There was hope he’d come back in better condition this year, but his first four starts came out to a 6.00 ERA with opponents slashing .302/.337/.512. After his 0-2 start, he was moved to the bullpen against his will. In relief, he’s made four appearances spanning 6 innings and put up a 10.50 ERA with an opposing slash of .304/.414/.696. That’s with a luckier-than-average .263 BAbip, too. It’s possible some team would like to have Harvey, but he’s more likely to end up being sent to the minors.

Harvey hasn’t handled the trip to the bullpen very well, so it’s likely he won’t handle Vegas well, either. He may end up staying in Vegas, or the Mets may find a trade partner. Best case scenario, he sees this as a chance to get his act together and takes advantage of 51s pitching coach Glenn Abbott. Alternatively, he may end up playing for the Long Island Ducks with former Mets Francisco Rodriguez and Jordany Valdespin.

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Could James Loney fit on the roster? April 7, 2016

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Economics.
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The Rays released James Loney a few days ago. That’s a big drop down for the 31-year-old first baseman, who was 6th in Rookie of the Year polling in 2007. Though his bat slowed down in 2015 and he posted his worst lines since 2012, he still hit .280/.322/.357. Since the Rays released him, they’re due to pay him $8 million this year, meaning he could pull a Gary Sheffield and play for the league minimum. He doesn’t hit like a traditional first baseman: his 2015 numbers extrapolate to about 25 doubles and 6 home runs for a 162-game, 603-plate-appearance season. He’s a lifetime .266/.310/.418 pinch hitter, and he’s made three appearances as a pinch runner, with the last one coming in 2012. Loney is known as a solid defensive first baseman, although his defensive wins above replacement have been reliably negative and spiked down to -0.9 in 2014 and -0.7 last year.

By Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (James Loney) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Common

By Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (James Loney) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Common

There’s an argument to be made that Loney might be more useful in the National League, considering the somewhat greater number of ground balls in the NL compared to fly balls. Loney had solid lateral movement, but the AL averaged .82 ground balls for every fly ball, and the Rays were at .74, in 2015. Meanwhile, the NL averaged .89, and Mets pitchers were right on the button. Closer Jeurys Familia was up at 1.52, with Bartolo Colon the fly-ball-est starter at a .75 GB/FB ratio. Loney might be more comfortable making picks than fielding high throws.

However, look at the marginal Mets player: Eric Campbell. With Wilmer Flores in a utility role and five full-time outfielders, picking up Loney would mean dropping Campbell or a pitcher. Conceivably we could talk trading Lucas Duda, but that’s not a move I can see the front office making (nor is it a move I’d endorse – Loney’s role would be as a lefty pinch hitter, double switch enabler, and defensive replacement). The Mets are carrying 12 pitchers, but that number includes the as-yet unproven Jim Henderson and starter-in-waiting Logan Verrett; one of them will have to go when Zack Wheeler comes back from Tommy John surgery. Temporarily dropping to 11 pitchers would set us up for a much nastier cut when Wheeler returns.

The truth is that Campbell isn’t a long-term solution, but Loney is even less of one. Campbell is expected to serve as a sixth outfielder in emergencies, while Loney hasn’t played the outfield since the Bush administration. Campbell was also called on to run for Travis d’Arnaud in Tuesday’s game, and logically he’s the soundest choice – Alejandro De Aza swiped 7 but got caught 5 times last year, and the 205-pound Flores isn’t exactly tearing up the base paths. Juan Lagares has some speed, but he’ll be starting games against lefties and won’t always be available from the bench. Loney is also a one-position player, and – though Flores’ ability to play anywhere in the infield is valuable – Campbell is there to prevent serious problems like Anthony Recker playing third base. Campbell also squatted a minor league game last year, so while I wouldn’t trust him to catch, he’s willing to do it.

I’d rather Campbell were playing every day – if he’s going to develop, he needs the time. But bringing in Loney and sending Campbell down would be a mistake for the Mets. It’s a shame. I like Loney. But I don’t think he’ll fit here.