Carlos Carrasco’s career has taken some dramatic turns, re-routed by elbow surgery, a therapeutic trip to the bullpen and several freakish injuries.
He persevered, blossoming into a special pitcher — and person — for the Cleveland Indians.
They’re going to keep him around.
The three-time AL Central champions and Carrasco agreed Thursday to a $47 million, four-year contract, a deal that includes $37.25 million in new guaranteed money and could keep him in a Cleveland uniform through the 2023 season.
Carrasco, who has won 35 games over the past two seasons, will make $9.75 million next season, the same as his prior deal, and $10.25 million in 2020 — the same amount as the club’s previous option for that season. The Indians added on two more seasons at $12 million each, and Cleveland holds a 2023 option for $14 million with a $3 million buyout.
For the cash-conscious Indians, the 31-year-old Carrasco is invaluable.
He’s a core member of one of baseball’s best rotations, which could be changed this winter if the Indians trade either two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber or All-Star Trevor Bauer to address outfield needs.
“As we looked at the continuity of our rotation, we feel Carlos can continue to be a key cog in that,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “When we had the opportunity to discuss with him the opportunity to extend his term here, it was something we thought would make a lot of sense for us. And we’re really happy we were able to do that, because it does help in our planning efforts moving forward.
“We want to do what we can to improve our team not just in 2019 but in the years beyond that as well.”
Carrasco went 17-10 with a 3.38 ERA in 30 starts last season, finishing with a career-high 231 strikeouts as the Indians became the first team to have four pitchers reach 200 strikeouts in the same season.
It was another strong season by Carrasco, who came to Cleveland in the 2009 blockbuster trade that sent Cliff Lee to Philadelphia. Carrasco missed all of 2012 following elbow reconstruction surgery, and two years later the Indians had him pitch part of the season in the bullpen, a move that Antonetti pointed to as a turning point for the right-hander.
“It really changed his mindset,” Antonetti said. “Carlos has always had a great compliment of stuff. How he utilized that stuff and his aggressiveness in the strike zone kind of came and went at times. When he had the opportunity to pitch out of the bullpen with the mindset of just trying to execute one pitch at a time, don’t worry about trying to get through the lineup three or four times, just try to execute one pitch. Try to get that hitter out. And then go on to the next hitter and try to get that hitter out until Tito comes to take the ball from you.
“That mentality helped flip the switch in Carlos’ mind to keep him aggressive. He maintained that same approach as a starter. He’s carried that forward for us now as a starter for the past four or five seasons.”
If not for some unlucky injuries — he’s been struck with several line drives, including one in 2016 that kept him out of the postseason — Carrasco would have more than 79 career wins.
But the Indians feel Carrasco’s commitment will allow him to keep pitching at a high level for several more seasons.
“He has evolved to the point where his routine, the way he conditions, the way he takes care of himself, are extraordinary, Antonetti said. “That’s allowed him to be very durable, despite some freak injuries, he’s pitched close to 200 innings each of the last two seasons and 180 innings a couple season before that. If it were not for some freak injuries, he likely would have eclipsed that mark each of the last four seasons.”
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