Everyone is still giddy about the Mets acquiring Francisco Lindor yesterday. Since giddy isn’t a word used to describe the reaction fans have to most player acquisitions of the Mets, let’s not rain on the parade or call for a premature end to the celebrations. But, perhaps we can take a moment to look at the other player acquired in the deal, Carlos Carrasco. Perhaps Cleveland considered Carrasco a salary dump but he’s so much more than that and helps solve a big need for the Mets.
A Venezuelan native Carrasco was originally signed by the Phillies in 2003. John Sickels had him as the team’s top prospect heading into the 2009 season – Travis d’Arnaud was ranked third – and Baseball Prospectus had him ranked 43rd of all MLB prospects, one spot ahead of Fernando Martinez. The Phillies ended up trading Carrasco during the ‘09 season, part of the prospect haul they sent to the Indians for Cliff Lee.
Carrasco had a coup of coffee with Cleveland in 2009 and made a slightly longer appearance in the majors the following season. In 2011 he made the Opening Day roster and took a turn in the rotation until early August. He ended up getting TJ surgery and missed all of 2012. Carrasco returned in 2013 but he wasn’t particularly good. He ended up making just over half of his 15 appearances out of the pen and he also saw time in the minors that season.
But everything started to come together for Carrasco in 2014.
He started the year in the rotation but after four lousy starts, Carrasco was sent to the bullpen. In 26 games as a reliever, Carrasco notched a 2.30 ERA and a 1.023 WHIP in 43 IP. He was moved back to the rotation in mid-August and in his final 10 starts of the year, Carrasco put up a 1.30 ERA with 78 Ks in 69 IP. Despite the lousy start, and spending half the season as a reliever, Carrasco finished with a 3.2 fWAR in ‘14.
The next four years he was a mainstay of Cleveland’s rotation. Carrasco went 60-36 with a 130 ERA+ in this span. He amassed a combined 17.8 fWAR in this span, including back-to-back years with totals of 5.4 and 5.2 in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The Mets have been known for their pitching throughout their history and only 27 times has a pitcher posted a 5.0 or greater fWAR season and only 13 pitchers have produced that number.
Carrasco hit a major roadblock in 2019, though. He was placed on the injured list with a blood condition, which was later diagnosed as leukemia. Remarkably, he was able to come back in September to make 11 appearances out of the bullpen. Carrasco’s September numbers were awful but that wasn’t the point. The fact he came back at all was tremendous and he earned the Comeback Player of the Year for his efforts.
During the Covid-shortened season, Carrasco took the ball every five days and ended up with a strong season, notching a 2.91 ERA in 68 IP. He was seventh in the AL in ERA and eighth in innings. As terrific as those numbers were overall, Carrasco did his best pitching down the stretch. In his final six games, he had a 1.66 ERA and allowed just 1 HR in 38 IP. Just as importantly, he showed better control at the end of the year. After allowing 15 BB in his first 30 IP of 2020, Carrasco surrendered 12 BB in his final 38 IP. It’s still not the 2.1 BB/9 that he posted between 2014-2018 but it’s a move in that direction.
Steamer thinks he’ll post a 3.5 fWAR over 174 IP this season, which would be a really strong addition to the Mets’ staff. For a comparison, the same system forecasts a 3.8 fWAR from Trevor Bauer. And Bauer will likely pull down a contract 2.5X more expensive than Carrasco’s.
There’s a slight concern about Carrasco’s age, as 2021 will be his age-34 season. But he seems to be completely recovered from the 2019 issue, which at this moment seems more important than the number of candles on his birthday cake. While it’s debatable if the Mets needed to import an impact shortstop, they absolutely needed to add a high-end starter. And they did just that with Carrasco. It’s fun to think about a second-half rotation with Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and Noah Syndergaard joining Carrasco.
Keep on feeling giddy, Mets fans.