It was the winter of 2013. The Red Sox were fresh off a World Series victory, and the Mets were a rebuilding franchise with their sights set on success in the near future. The Boston rotation needed a bonafide ace, and the Mets lineup needed a contact hitter that could provide a spark at the top of the order.
If there were any two teams that were primed for a swap of offense and pitching, it was New York and Boston, and if there were any two players that were destined for a straight-up trade, they were Matt Harvey and Mookie Betts.
With a stellar lineup already in tow, the Sox were eager to plug up holes in their rotation before the start of the 2014 season, and the Mets had pitching to spare. With prospects like Jacob DeGrom, Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard in the pipeline, Matt Harvey was merely an established piece in an up-and-coming rotation. But with Harvey coming off a year where he started the All-Star Game and finished 4th in the Cy Young Award voting, it’s easy to see why the Mets wouldn’t want to deal away the ace of their rotation.
But Boston persisted. At the time, Mookie Betts was the top prospect in the Red Sox farm system, and it would have taken a blockbuster deal for the Mets to budge. With key pieces of the Red Sox rotation like Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester nearing the end of their contracts, it was imperative for Boston to secure an ace if they wanted to stay competitive.
And thus, the table was set: Betts for Harvey, no questions asked. But Sandy Alderson and the Mets refused. The New York front office was hell-bent on keeping their “ace."
Harvey would win the Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2015, posting a 2.71 ERA through 189.1 IP, while later bringing the Mets just three outs away from a potential 6th game of the 2015 World Series. And although Harvey showed shades of brilliance in 2015, his 2016 and 2017 seasons were nothing short of nightmares. With an average ERA of 6.19 over the past three years, Harvey was unable to finish any of the aforementioned seasons with the Mets, suffering injuries in 2016 and ‘17, and of course, being designated for assignment earlier this month.
On the flip side, Boston held on to Mookie Betts, and since the trade was proposed, Betts has become one of the strongest players in all of Major League Baseball, as he’s placed in the voting for MVP each year since his debut. As of today, Mookie Betts is a career .300 hitter, with nearly 100 HRs, and over 330 RBIs.
Five years removed from the “trade that never was," Mookie Betts has become a perennial MVP candidate, while Matt Harvey has tarnished his legacy forever.