The Mets of recent vintage have a knack for turning every notion you have about them on its head, nearly to a point where their ability to buck popular narratives is almost as impressive as the feats themselves. There's no way they hold off the Nationals. All right. There's no way they turn a trade after this Carlos Gomez debacle. Okay. There's no way they re-sign Yoenis Cespdes.
Outside of them catching Washington, which very few people saw coming, the pleasant surprises are mostly a function of low expectations and shattered faith. A team just a handful of games out of first place with a deep well of minor league pitching making a deal for a talented hitter with an expiring contract on a toiling team is no great revelation, if not for the buyer balking on an equally big and already-agreed-to deal just 40 hours prior. Just like how a team in the biggest market in the country re-signing said hitter after he propelled the team to a pennant should have been a given, if not for justified disenchantment with the team's light wallets.
Despite the inevitable disappointments that never got the chance to disappoint Mets fans, Matt Harvey electing free agency at the end of the 2018 season feels like the one most likely to finally come true. Where a savvy general manager could plausibly make a phoenix of Cespedes out of the ashes of Gomez, or stingy owners could find loose change in the couch to pay for his services (easier to say in hindsight, granted), there's something that feels innately implausible about the idea of Harvey signing an extension.
It's not a logistics issue. It's a human issue, where the hurdles to clear aren't a matter of pinching pennies elsewhere and thinking outside the box, but convincing immovable objects to budge on philosophies ingrained into their DNA. First, there's Scott Boras, the agent who might actually give up the trade the first time one of his marquee clients signs an extension in lieu of creating a bidding war on the open market. Then there's Harvey himself, whose open desire to lock down a $200 million-plus contract (which is by all means his right) is directly at odds with the kind of team-friendly figure the Mets would throw at him two years before he hits the open market.
Then there are Harvey's stablemates, up to four of whom might also command $100 million or more in free agency in the next five years. Jacob deGrom (hits free agency in 2020) and Noah Syndergaard (2021) are the surest bets, though Steven Matz (2021) and even Zack Wheeler (2020) could still earn a nice keep. Which of them will want to test the open waters? On whom will the Mets, not yet definitively out of the financially hamstrung woods, gamble and shell out, knowing the delicacy and erratic shelf life of these prized arms? All of this is just a rehash of what we already know: The odds of the Mets signing Harvey to a long-term deal are awfully low.
But then Harvey left the door ever so slightly ajar recently. You'll have to squint really hard to see the light coming through, but it's on. "I think whatever comes up is going to come up. I’ve never shied away from it," he told reporters in Port St. Lucie when asked about the possibility of an extension. "I’ve never said I wouldn’t consider it, but I haven’t heard anything considering that."
Yes, it's far from a pledge of unabashed allegiance to the orange and blue, but it's the reason the open-and-shut case on Harvey electing free agency was pulled from the files at all. That we're even talking about it after last season's innings-limit debacle seemed to irreparably damage Harvey's relationship with the team is a positive sign for fans who want to see The Dark Knight in Gotham—or at least in this borough of it—for life.
The most a Harvey loyalist can be assured of at this point is that there is a non-zero chance the Mets lock him up with an inherently team-friendly deal before he hits free agency in two years. It would be foolish to interpret Harvey's artful tip-toeing as otherwise. It also doesn't help that on the very same day, Boras all but confirmed another hard-throwing right-handed client of his, Stephen Strasburg, would go to free agency at the end of this season. The two situations aren't identical (although like Harvey, Strasburg has also had a somewhat tenuous go of it with his employer), but it's hard to find a more apt precedent for Harvey's impending free agency.
Plenty can happen between now and then. A hypothetical World Series ring could entice Harvey to stay. Injury could strike and make parting sweeter sorrow (or not sorrowful at all). It still might take a minor miracle to stop Harvey from reaching free agency, but as he kinda, sorta stated last week, he never said he wouldn't consider it.