Salary Arbitration Projection: Matt Harvey

In his first year of being eligible for arbitration, Matt Harvey will be able to substantially increase his salary for the 2016 season. Since beginning his career with the New York Mets in 2012, he has taken off to become an All-Star pitcher and fan favorite. His agent, Scott Boras, and the front office of the Mets will negotiate a one year salary based off his success in 2015. We’ll cut right to the chase and get into the hard numbers which will help us identify a rough projection of what we would expect Matt Harvey to receive this coming winter.

For more background on arbitration cases, read my previous article which discusses what is allowed/not allowed.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 16: National League All-Star Matt Harvey #33 of the New York Mets pitches during the 84th MLB All-Star Game on July 16, 2013 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The American League defeated the National League 3-0. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 16: National League All-Star Matt Harvey #33 of the New York Mets pitches during the 84th MLB All-Star Game on July 16, 2013 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The American League defeated the National League 3-0. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

Overall performance:
Since 2012, Matt Harvey at age 26 has a career 2.59 ERA with 24-17 win/loss record. During his 2013 season Harvey was on a tear with a 2.27 ERA and became one of the leading NL Cy Young candidates before his injury. He also started the 2013 All-Star game which happened to be in Citi Field that year. After tearing his UCL and missing the entire 2014 season, Harvey came back strong this year and has pitched in 26 games thus far with a 2.88 ERA through 171 innings (11th best in league). He has a 12-7 win record and gives up less than a hit per inning (which ranks 9th in all of MLB). His WHIP is also one of the top 10 leagues best at 1.03 so he rarely allows runners on base and is averaging 8.6 strikeouts per game.

His W/L record this season does not show his true value, as the Mets started the first half of the season with one of the worst offenses in the league. After acquiring premier Major League hitters such as Yoenis Cespedes and Juan Uribe, the Mets have led the league in runs scored giving Mets starters big run support. Since those acquisitions, Harvey has pitched in 7 games winning 3 and losing 0. But the Mets’ bullpen blew Harvey’s lead in 3 other games in which he had outperformed the other team. Had it not been for a mediocre bullpen, Harvey could have been 6-0 in 7 games since August 1st. Clearly, Harvey is an ace to this team and is the backbone of a staff that has propelled the Mets to first place. He is a consistent pitcher and does not show signs of letting up even after having TJ surgery. Without Harvey, the Mets would lose a dominant, consistent ace which is obviously hard to come by.

Leadership/Public appeal:
As one of the older members on the New York Mets’ young pitching staff, Harvey is one the leaders on this team. After fighting his way back from injury rehab, he has become a consistent stronghold to the Mets’ rotation. Although Dr. Andrews, who performed Tommy John surgery on Harvey, has stated he should not exceed 180 innings due to his injury, Harvey is continuing to pitch on an innings watch to help the Mets win, especially through the postseason. Even if it hurts his chances at re-injuring himself, he is going out there to pitch.

As a leader, you need to show guts and heart; Harvey has definitely displayed that, battling out there everyday. Matt Harvey also is a fan favorite.  He ranks 9th in all of Major League Baseball and 1st with the Mets in 2015 top jersey sales. Many fans across the country are purchasing his jersey, thus showing how popular he is with people. When he returned to the mound this season to pitch, his first game back drew the biggest crowd (39,000 fans) for the second home game of the season since Citi Field opened in 2009.  That was 10,000 more fans in attendance than last year and 20,000 more than two years ago. During the 2013 All-Star game at Citi Field, which Harvey started, the Mets drew their most fans in history at 45,000. When he’s the night’s starting pitcher, fans flock to the ballpark to see Matt Harvey. At the same time he’s able to strikeout hitters, captivate a crowd and draw extra revenue in from ticket sales than if he wouldn’t be pitching. The Mets fans also have a popular nickname for Harvey: The Dark Knight. Symbolizing his leadership skills and journey back from Tommy John surgery, Harvey symbolizes the 2015 Mets team and has dramatically changed the mood of the fan base since his arrival/return. There’s no denying this.


Injury history:
As stated earlier, Matt Harvey missed all of 2014 season undergoing Tommy John surgery to repair his torn UCL. His recovery has been a success thus far but is always a case for concern in the future. But arbitration cases do not quite debate the future; only his previous success. He has shown no discomfort and has spent 0 days on the disabled list this year. To combat future problems the Mets’ pitching staff went to a 6-man rotation, which has caused Harvey (and other Mets pitchers) to skip a couple starts. Harvey has constantly said he feels good and does not show any signs of slowing down unless the Mets management shut him down.

Performance of club:
The Mets are currently in first place by 6 games and it looks like it will stay that way come October. Largely in part due to Harvey’s success on the mound, the Mets would not be in the same situation without him or his 12 wins this season. When the playoff schedule arrives, Harvey will easily be the game 1 or game 2 starter depending on how he finishes the season.

Record of the players past compensation: 
Harvey made MLB’s minimum salary in 2013 at $498,000 and this year at around $510,000. This will be his first eligible year of Arbitration 1. His value to the team over the last couple years has been sky-high but he’s been grossly underpaid.


Comparative salaries:
Tyson Ross was arbitration 1 last year for the San Diego Padres. In his 2014 campaign he pitched to a 2.81 ERA / 1.211 WHIP with 13 wins in 191 innings pitched. He also struck out 9 hitters per inning and was named an All-Star that same season. But Ross pitches in a heavily favored pitcher’s ballpark. His stats at home included a 1.88 ERA with an 8-5 record but his away stats included a 3.79 ERA with a 5-9 record. Clearly, Ross does not pitch better on the road and his starts could have been affected by where he pitched. Compared to Harvey’s career numbers, he pitches more consistently than Ross at home (12-7, 2.15 ERA) and away (12-10, 3.14 ERA). From our previous numbers we know that Harvey has been a better pitcher overall this season in ERA, WHIP, wins and many other pitching statistics than Ross had in his 2014 season. Following Ross’ 2014 year, he was able to negotiate a 1yr/$5.25m deal in January. Ross is not as consistent and skilled as Matt Harvey. Since Harvey surpasses Ross in success we can see he is due much more in salary as well.

Chris Tillman is the next player we can compare to. Although a little less successful, Tillman was able to get a 1yr/$4.3m deal. The season prior to his arbitration, Tillman had a 13-6 record with a 3.34 ERA and struck out only 6.5 K/9 in 207 innings. Tillman is on the lower end of the comparison as he agreed to almost a million dollars less than Tyson Ross.

These players give us the best guideline and recent examples in terms of numbers/dollars that can help us estimate what Harvey should be owed for the 2016 season. Harvey is definitely much better than Ross and Tillman. He brings more to the table than just numbers as he is a figurehead in New York, one of the largest markets in baseball. The first-place Mets could not be where they are if it was not for Harvey. His health was a concern earlier this year but he hasn’t had any setbacks this entire season except for skipping a start here or there. We can expect Harvey to easily surpass Tyson Ross and his $5.25m deal.

Due to the pizzazz of the Dark Knight, the revenues generated from his starts/jersey sales and the recent success of the team, Harvey should be able to negotiate himself around a 1yr/$6.3m deal. If we talk about fairness in terms of his contract, I think this is “fair” to both parties. We have to take into account everything that Harvey brings to the table and I think he’s more valuable than Ross and most previous pitchers who went to arbitration 1 and did not sign a multi-year deal. The one factor that could haunt Harvey’s dollar amount is his elbow due to TJ surgery. If that happens to wear out during the last couple of weeks in September and postseason, we can easily make a case that he should be owed less. But as for now he’s been Harvey-esque and back to where he was before the surgery. Next year his innings limit should be lifted or increased dramatically so there won’t be too much of a cause for concern compared to if he spent time on the DL this season. Obviously, he isn’t a sure bet that he will remain healthy but arbitration does not greatly take into consideration future success/problems, only previous. That is why we project him to get approximately $6.3m.

Overall, both sides will negotiate and the Mets will offer less than what I project. I could definitely see the Mets’ offering $5.5 to $6m. But Scott Boras will clearly try to get more for Harvey — I think around $7m. Both arguments will be justified. In the end, I think an arbitrator would agree that 1yr/$6.3m is common ground, a good midpoint and fit for an agreement by both parties. Stay tuned for more…

Projection: 1yr/$6.3m

…because he’s the hero Queens deserves…


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“In the end, I think an arbitrator would agree that 1yr/$6.3m is common ground, a good midpoint and fit for an agreement by both parties”

Arbitrators don’t pick ‘middle ground’. They choose one side or the other, right?

Rich Rieders

Correct. Final Offer Arbitration means the arbitrator will award the figure that is closest to whatever the arbitrator deems is the correct value.

For example, let’s suppose. Team submits 3 million and Player submits 4 million. If the arbitrator decides the player worth is 3,500,000.01 or above, he will receive 4 million. If the arbitrator decides the player is worth $3,499,999.99 or below, he will receive 3 million.

Rich Rieders

I’m sorry, but this is not accurate at all.

If you take a look at my article below ( you’ll see that I’ve developed a very accurate projection model and the most important measure for determining arbitration salaries is the accumulation of traditional counting stats. Unlike the players listed above, Harvey missed an entire season due to TJS and has never pitched a full season in the majors. That is an extremely huge hurdle to overcome and will prevent him from getting that kind of contract. You make an excellent point about his persona, but that’s not going to be enough to get him as much as you claim. Even if he pulls a Bumgarner and single-handedly wins the Mets the WS, that 6.3 million is not going to happen.

If Harvey doesn’t throw another pitch this season, my projection system has him at $3,709,165 +/-$146,841.

The record salary for a first year arbitration eligible SP was set in 2011 by David Price at 4.35 million. While Harvey has better rate stats overall, the counting stats are what matter and Price has made 89 career starts to Harvey’s 63. That’s almost a full season’s worth of games. That means more W, SO, WAR, WPA, etc. Not to mention that Harvey is being limited (by his camp) so his platform season will have lower totals as well. You should look to that 4.35 million as his ceiling. The same logic applies to Chris Tillman who made nearly double the career starts (118) Harvey has made thus far.

As to your comparables, please note that Harvey is going to be arbitration eligible for the first time. Tyson Ross was actually a 2nd year arbitration eligible last season (received 1.98 million as a Super 2 going into 2014). Now we can still use Ross, but first year arbitration players are treated much different than 2nd year players since we don’t use career numbers for Arb-2 and beyond (absent special circumstances). For Arb-2 and beyond, we care about the raise only. Tyson Ross received a raise of $3,270,000 this season so that’s the only way you can compare Harvey and Ross. You are not permitted to use the total salary of 5.25 million.

Now if you use the raise for Tyson Ross, you’ll see that Ross’s raise of 3.27 million this past season is nearly identical to my current projected raise for Harvey of $3,095,040.

Spencer Jones

Your projection seems to make sense, iirc Stephen Strasburg got a little under $4M his first time through.

Rich Rieders

Strasburg is certainly the comp that comes to mind. Similar rate stats, similar traditional stats, similar name recognition and similar injury history. That’s as good a comp as you will find.

I think the model has this one right on the money although I am fascinated to see what kind of impact persona could have on this case.


Tyson Ross striking out 9 hitters per inning has got to be a record, right? :)