Matt Harvey injury: Mets should still spend this offseason

Stephen Dunn

Matt Harvey's absence in 2014 would be crushing, but it was never going to only be about next year in New York.

Things were just starting to come together for the Mets, even if their 2013 record doesn't show it. The rotation, while not perfect, had legitimate pieces in place for a 2014 run. All they needed was to spend a bit on free agency to fill the holes in the lineup, add a dash of all-star third baseman David Wright, and suddenly they're in the NL East, or, at the least, wild card race.

In a matter of minutes, news relating to Matt Harvey went from ambiguous to awful for both the pitcher and his team's immediate future. It began with a report of an MRI for an unknown body part, and shortly thereafter word of a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament made the rounds. That's the confirmation at this point, and while it's unknown if he'll indeed go under the knife for Tommy John surgery, the chances for it are better than Mets fans would like. They can't all pull an Adam Wainwright and put years and hundreds of innings between a partial tear and the eventual TJ, you know.

Given that we don't yet know if Harvey will be gone for 2014 or not -- it all depends on if the swelling subsides -- it's difficult to say how Monday's injury news changes things for the Mets. They still have the aforementioned Wright, as well as rookie pitcher Zack Wheeler and top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud, and if Jon Niese can return to his healthy, 2012 form, then the makings of a pretty good rotation are there even sans their ace. Just $33 million of their payroll for 2014 is guaranteed, so while they might not be ready to go all-in, there's definitely room to spend.

175753680Photo credit: Mike Stobe

The fact that Harvey would -- based on regular recovery times for Tommy John recipients -- return for late-2014 or for the start of 2015 is what should keep the Mets on task, with the plan being to spend now on players they would have looked to bring in on long-term deals anyway -- 2014 was never going to be the only season the rebuilding and reloading of the Mets was about.. Get what will now be a head start on the next competitive Mets club by bidding on the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury to improve the outfield's defense and offense. Try to bring in Stephen Drew to be the team's shortstop, because so few high-quality ones are out there, and Drew can perform in the batter's box and with the glove. Aim for a corner outfield bat like Shin-Soo Choo so you aren't praying for Marlon Byrd to replicate what has been a career-best campaign at the age of 35. Or, just tell the haters to hate and bring back Carlos Beltran so he can close out his career and give winning with New York one more go.

Try to sign a solid pitcher to a deal that fits both with and without Harvey -- someone like Bartolo Colon, perhaps. He'll be 41, but he's been highly effective the past few seasons since his return, and he can help prop up the middle of the rotation while Niese and Wheeler try to keep the top steady in Harvey's absence, and Dillon Gee holds up the back-end. Assuming Jenrry Mejia can return without complication from surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow, he's another young arm who could make a Harvey-less rotation strong.

Losing Harvey is terrible news, even if it's not quite confirmed yet -- the knowledge he has a partially torn UCL will hang over the Mets in the future if he's able to avoid surgery in the present, because it's almost inevitable that his day will come. It shouldn't stop them from going after the players they were going to like for 2014 and beyond anyway, though, because Harvey will be back, and given the way these things work these days, he'll still be Matt Harvey.

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