The Indians have already been involved in a flurry of discussions regarding a potential trade of one of their talented starting pitchers, which isn’t expected to stop with next week’s Winter Meetings looming. One of their top-line starters will now remain in Cleveland for quite some time.
The Indians on Thursday exercised a 2020 club option and then signed starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco to a deal that could keep him in Cleveland through the 2023 season.
Carrasco was already under club control through 2020 under his previous deal, signed in 2015. His 2019 club option valued at $9.75 million was picked up earlier this winter, with a 2020 club option worth $10.25 million. The extension tacks on two more years at $12 million each and includes a vesting option for the 2023 season valued at $14 million (with a $3 million buyout), according to a source who remained anonymous because details of the contract not yet being released.
Carrasco, 31, won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. He said he’d be pleased if an Indians uniform ends up as the last he ever wears.
“I feel great,” Carrasco said. “I feel great to be a part of the Cleveland Indians. This is something social for me and my family. ... I just want to finish my career with them and I’m so thankful for that and really happy. At the same time, my family is happy, too. That’s all that matters.”
Carrasco is one of seven qualified starting pitchers to amass at least 10.0 fWAR the past two seasons combined. In that time, he’s 34-15 with a 3.31 ERA, 3.04 FIP and a 10.40 K/9 rate, ranking in the top 13 among starting pitchers in each category.
The Indians have watched Carrasco evolve into one of the better pitchers in the game, rewarding them for their patience.
“It’s been really fulfilling to see Carlos’ development and maturation as a player and person in the time we’ve had him,” president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “He’s overcome a lot of challenges in his career. We often talk about how career development isn’t linear. That certainly has been the case with Carlos.
"There have been some fits and starts along the way. But as we’ve seen him mature into the pitcher he’s become, he’s now one of the best pitchers in the American League and all of baseball, and we’re thrilled to have him as part of our rotation for the foreseeable future.”
Carrasco will be 36 years old by the time this deal ends, but it stands as a quality value for the Indians compared to what Carrasco would likely get on the open market as a starting pitcher who’s been at a nearly ace level for several seasons. As long as he pitches at his current level, he’ll remain one of the best veteran bargains in the game. He’s pitched at least 180 innings in three of the past four seasons despite being the victim of some fluke injuries.
“That was extremely important for us,” Antonetti said, speaking about Carrasco’s consistency. “One of the things we try to do is look forward with how we’re going to build our team for multiple seasons to come. As we looked at the continuity of our rotation, we feel Carlos can continue to be a key cog in that.”
Carrasco was unable to pitch in the 2016 postseason after being hit with a line drive, but has put together two quality starts in the past two postseason series, combining to allow just two runs on nine hits in 11 innings to go with 10 strikeouts.
The extension means starters Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber are all under club control through at least the 2022 season, giving the Indians additional long-term security for one of baseball’s best rotations.
It doesn’t necessarily alter the team’s direction, but it could narrow the focus on the Indians searching for a deal for either Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer as a way to address the needs on the roster while also reallocating payroll. Carrasco could always be traded as well, but with the Indians holding a long-term view in mind, the heat could be raised on Kluber or Bauer.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.