Ever since Sandy Alderson arrived as Mets GM, 2014 was envisioned as the year the Mets would finally begin to be competitive again. Free of all the burdensome contracts of the Omar Minaya era and with some luck and player development, Alderson could finally begin to shape the Mets roster in his own image.
Harvey's injury and probable Tommy John surgery change the equation greatly. The question is, how much?
The 2014 Rotation
The Mets' hopes for 2014 had always been pinned on the strength of their rotation. Harvey/Niese/Wheeler/Gee/Mejia with a veteran or someone from the minors as depth.
Losing Harvey makes it a significantly weaker one. Harvey was the Mets' unquestioned ace, and it will be impossible for the Mets to replace him internally. It removes any chance the Mets trade Jonathon Niese or Dillon Gee, as they will be relied on heavily for 2014. It's a precarious situation for the Mets considering those two have dealt with significant injuries the last year and a half. They will also need Zack Wheeler to improve quite a bit in 2014 and for Jenrry Mejia to not only stay healthy but to continue pitching like he had before he went down.
The 2014 Offseason Trade Strategy
One of the ideas heading into the 2014 offseason was that the Mets could use some of their prospects like Rafael Montero or Noah Syndergaard to acquire an outfielder like Giancarlo Stanton or Carlos Gonzalez. The idea of that seems wholly unrealistic at this point.
With the injuries to Jeremy Hefner, Harvey, and Mejia in the last month, the Mets pitching depth has been decimated. Given the injury history of everyone on the Mets' projected staff for 2014 outside of Zack Wheeler, getting rid of more depth would be like cutting your nose to spite your face. The Mets will likely need Syndergaard and Montero to contribute significant innings next year if they want to even have a slight chance of being competitive.
The 2014 Offseason Free Agency Strategy
Cynicism is a natural part of any Mets fan's nature and it wouldn't be totally insane to believe that the Mets front office/management use this as an excuse to not add pieces in free agency and wait until 2015.
On the off chance that the Mets actually do have money to spend though, their wiser course may be to splurge more on free agents than they had originally intended.
There is an inherent problem with free agency, in that players under 30 aren't reaching free agency anymore, thus forcing teams to overspend for players who will almost certainly decline quickly after they sign.
It is an unavoidable beast though, and with the Mets lack of position player depth and reduced pitching depth, it is something the Mets will have to dabble with sooner rather than later.
Even before the Harvey injury, the Mets needed improvements in left field, right field, and shortstop, along with second base and possibly center. Harvey's injury exacerbates those needs greatly and it will also force the Mets to sign at least one veteran SP.
Options for the corner OF spots include Shin Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, Nelson Cruz, and Hunter Pence. Shortstop also has a viable market with Yunel Escobar, Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta all likely to reach free agency.
It's an unfortunate situation but one the Mets are essentially cornered into right now. Spend, or potentially waste another year of David Wright's prime.
The 2014 Outlook
There is no sugarcoating this, no getting around it: Harvey's injury is absolutely cataclysmic to the Mets' playoff chances in 2014.
Harvey posted a 2.27 ERA and a 2.62 xFIP, best on the staff by more than a full run. He posted a 6.2 fWAR in 178.1 innings. Despite his performance, the Mets are still 12 games under .500.
The four other 2014 projected starters (Niese, Mejia, Wheeler, Gee) combined to provide 2.6 fWAR. Regardless of how much weight you put in WAR for pitchers, it speaks volumes about the Mets' rotation.
Again, the Mets have no one on their staff or in their minors who could even realistically come close to that kind of performance. There are also no free agents on the 2014 market who could come close to that. It means the Mets will need improvements from every member of their rotation and for them to stay healthy, and even then that might not be enough.
It will also require the Mets to get significant improvements from every position on the field outside of third base, a highly suspect proposition given that the team has a finite amount of money to spend and not enough resources in the organization to fill holes via trade.
In short, if you were thinking of saving up money for Mets playoff tickets in 2014, don't.
Matt Harvey is not dead, and his career is not over. He will be back at some point in the future.
However, the idea of a Harvey-led rotation in the near future is dead. It will force the Mets' front office to examine their short- and long-term plans, and likely fundamentally alter them. Whether they're able to do this adequately will become apparent in the coming months.